In Good Faith
Mug - Ahriana Platten

Ahriana Platten

Christmas is a few days away and colorful lights, inflatable reindeer, extended shopping hours and caroling bands of high school students remind us that it’s a special time. Gallup statistics say more than 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. That’s interesting, because Pew research says only 65 percent of us identify as Christian — and Christmas is a Christian holiday. Clearly, people of other faiths find the joy of the season contagious!

Christmas is a time when we traditionally draw loved ones close, exchange gifts and tell stories, feast on holiday cookies and drink eggnog. Despite all the surface decorations and festivities, most of us acknowledge the sacredness of the season. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth — a child of immaculate conception, born out of wedlock, whose birth was heralded by angels and wise men.

As with most scripture, this son-of-god-birthed-as-man story, written thousands of years ago, is thought to contain wisdom applicable to the world we live in today. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, was asked to define the modern-day wisdom that people of any faith tradition might glean from Jesus’ birth story.


 

More from Jim Daly

Jim Daly: I’ll tell you right up front that I consider this a very difficult assignment. Is there any “wisdom” in the story of Jesus’ birth that can be applied to life in the modern world by everyone, whether Christian or not? I’m not at all sure that there is. Everything depends on what you mean by “wisdom.”

The apostle Paul has some mind-bending things to say about wisdom and the Christian faith in the opening chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. In verse 18 he writes that the message of the cross is “foolishness” to those who don’t understand the Gospel. Then he adds, “To those who are called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (verse 24, New Living Translation).” He concludes with this very famous line: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (verse 25, New American Standard Bible).

The story of Jesus’ birth is part and parcel of this “foolishness.” Like “the message of the cross,” it encourages us to turn our backs on pragmatic wisdom and to embrace weakness instead. It makes the claim that, at a certain moment in history, the Creator of the Universe laid power aside and came into the world as a human being. More to the point, it tells us that this particular human being was neither a warrior-king, an influential politician, nor a “wise” and seasoned counselor, but a helpless and vulnerable baby in a manger. All things considered, it simply doesn’t make sense.

This story doesn’t stand alone. It introduces us to a Kingdom where the first are last, the poor are rich, the weak are strong, and death is the pathway to life. How do we apply these principles to life in the 21st century? The answer is devastatingly simple: We take our power-driven, success-oriented, profit-seeking value system and turn it upside-down and inside-out. It strikes me that this is precisely what the biblical writers have in mind when they call us to repent. 

Join the conversation at InGoodFaith.org. Dr. Ahriana Platten is a speaker, author and business consultant who holds clergy credentials in several faith traditions. Send your questions to Ahriana@Ahriana.com.