I love singing Christmas carols. I love what their words remind me of. Just this morning Stasi was singing a few refrains from O Holy Night and it absolutely grabbed me:
A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
Something deep in my spirit said, O yes, dear Jesus, we need hope. Come for this weary world. Actually, this world is more than weary. This world is coming apart at the seams. I do not refer to the wars, the disease, the economic chaos, the human trafficking. These tragedies are blatant. Something deeper is unraveling. I wonder if you’ve felt it, too. There is a barrenness of spirit, a desolation creeping across the earth. It is the root of these outbreaks. The fabric of social life is rending, because the fabric of the human spirit is nearly worn through.
You can see this in many ways. Take the explosion of Facebook – it is a grasp to stay connected. But it falls short of true community; there is no human touch, no face-to-face. Everyone is getting tattoos – they are a grasp at permanence and self identity. But they are skin deep. We know we lack substance, and we grasp for it.
Into this great ache has come the latest fashion: Social concern.
We know the world is weary, so we rally now to lend a helping hand. Oprah, Bill Gates, Bono – if you want to be thought well of these days, you have a cause. Toms shoes. Fair trade. Shrink your carbon footprint. Social concern is in, its hip.
And it will not work.
This is not the message of Christmas.
God didn’t offer the shepherds a grant for their micro economics. He didn’t offer the little outcast family an apartment.
He offered them a savior. He offered them himself. And with him, a kingdom.
There is simply no other way to save this weary, unraveling world.
Now here is my concern – it is easier to offer social consciousness and environmental responsibility than it is to offer Jesus. I am much more inclined to offer my neighbor a helping hand than tell him he needs Jesus Christ. When I get to chatting with strangers, I’d much rather they know I give to support AIDS relief in Africa than that I am a Christian author. Social concern is cool; Jesus is majorly disruptive.
Now the socially concerned are mad at me. “The Bible commands us to care for the earth! To care for the poor and the oppressed!” Yes, it does. But let me ask: What is the unique contribution of Christianity to this weary world?
It is obviously not social concern.
It is Jesus and his kingdom.
That is why the old hymn says, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.” No receiving of the King, no joy for the world. Now, of course we offer help. Of course we lend a hand. But Jesus said that cup of cold water is offered “in My name.” Without Jesus, social concern will not rescue this unraveling world, for it cannot address this barrenness of spirit. As C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us happiness apart from himself because it does not exist. There is no such thing.”
Think again about the gift in the manger. God saw what the world most desperately needed, and what he chose to give us was…Himself. To care for the world is to offer Jesus Christ. This is the message of Christmas. “Let every heart, prepare him room.” Then heaven and nature will sing. Then will break the new and glorious morn. O, may it come.