Picture the scene with me if you will: An obnoxious siren blares loudly as emergency lights flash and a mechanical voice drones on with an unending mantra of “DANGER! DANGER!” Soon a group of workers in Hazmat suits begin cautiously dismantling a crèche sitting in front of the county courthouse.
One by one they carefully load various animals onto a hazardous materials truck—an ox, a couple of sheep and, of course, a donkey. Mary and Joseph soon follow. Finally, all that is left is the especially dangerous baby Jesus. With the same extreme caution of moving a nuclear bomb, the workers inch the infant closer to a containment vessel.
Finally, latches are clasped and locks sealed; the truck and its large entourage of police cars and military vehicles disappear out of sight, soon followed by the final flashing of the last red emergency light. A few stragglers linger in front of the courthouse, but within the hour all are gone; the uninformed never realizing that another deadly disaster has been luckily averted!
It all sounds a little extreme, I know, but with the onslaught of lawsuits against manger displays on government property, one might tend to think that there is something exceedingly dangerous about a baby lying in a manger. But, you see, there is!! That seemingly helpless infant is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! King Herod thought him enough of a threat to murder all of the young male children in His geographical area. Since that time, repressive governments have consistently sought to repress all Christian expression. The stark truth remains that there is Danger in the Manger—at least to the kingdoms of man (used in a generic sense).
Through my next few posts I’d like to highlight three primary areas of conflict between humanism and Christianity as seen in the Christmas Story of the Gospel of Luke—you know, the one still legally (thankfully) recited by Linus on A Charlie Brown Christmas. Each of these three areas poses a point of contention between humanism and the kingdom of God, but also amongst the individual kingdoms of man.
The first arena of conflict isn’t necessarily spelled out for us, but is certainly inherent to the Christmas Story. At the center of any kingdom stands its king. The instant that Jesus arrived on the scene, He became the central figure.
In the Western culture of the United States we have worked tirelessly to remove Jesus from the center of our existence—and with surprising success. We’ve somehow managed to secularize the very holiday celebrating His birth to the point that it’s all about us. All about our needs, our wants, our desires. All about our shopping experiences and corporate profits. All about our warm and fuzzy Happy Holidays feelings. All about some jolly mythical figure who provides us with all of the self-absorbed pleasures of Christmas, while making no claim of centrality. I’m no Santa hater, but you can be sure that he was created by man solely for the benefit of man—mainly because Jesus would never tolerate such nonsense.
Through our deliberate and persistent efforts, we’ve lost not only the substance, but also the peace of Christmas. You see, peace isn’t just about an absence (of conflict), it’s about a Presence. His presence! It’s a peace that goes beyond words—even beyond comprehension. A peace without which the human race will continue to find itself mired not only in conflict, but also with a gnawing sense of emptiness; an emptiness which no number of presents under the holiday tree can ever fill.
Is there Danger in the Manger? You’d better believe it! But only for those who insist upon a self-centered existence.
8“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’” Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)
“…And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”