The truth… the whole truth… and…

BXP64677“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

The whole truth.  That’s what a witness pledges to tell in a courtroom. Sometimes, the partial truth becomes an untruth. There’s a tragically hilarious spoof in Talledega Nights (Todd Skinner told me about this, and when I saw it, I laughed out loud at the satire of our culture)… in which the lead character prays for his family meal.  This guy is so narcissistic, that he chooses to pray to “Baby Jesus” and “tiny infant Jesus” and “little baby Jesus”  and “Eight pound, six ounce Jesus.”

His wife and father-in-law challenge him, but he basically says, “I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m saying grace.  When you say grace you can pray to grown up Jesus… or whatever Jesus you want.”

This satirical punch to the gut of truncated Christianity is super-effective (you can see the clip here).  

sap_nativityThere’s truth in “baby Jesus.”  He is the reason for Christmas. 

But baby Jesus isn’t the whole truth.  The whole truth is summed up in the angel’s instruction to Joseph:  “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV).

You will call his name Jesus–the word for Savior.  For he will save his people from their sins.  From their sins.  Not from the corruptions of the government, or from political oppression, or from psychological disturbance, or from financial poverty… though all these things can be the outcroppings of sin, and are addressed tangentially in the gospel.  Yes, we should be involved in the mission of bettering lives on earth.

But never forget that on Christmas God gave us a Savior from our sins.  There’s the whole truth of Christmas.  That’s why we celebrate.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. Our family goes crazy with Christmas… we even decorate two massive trees. So, I’m not diminishing the drama of the Incarnation. The virgin birth. The angelic hosts. The shepherds and Magi. There’s enough drama here to fuel the imagination for generations. The birth of Christ is an epic adventure in its own right. Immanuel, God with us. Born the king of angels. Little town of Bethlehem. Joy to the World!

But never forget that God-with-us is predicated on Jesus dying for us.

nativity_storyHad Jesus remained an infant, we could not be saved, and God-with-us would seal our doom. His Incarnation did not save us. Nor did his teaching. Nor did his Moral Example. Nor did his love. He saved us by his death and resurrection. Everything else was preparatory for Calvary. 

That’s why Jesus so often told his listeners NOT to talk about him. They didn’t yet comprehend the core of the story. My sermon 3 weeks ago (Secret Jesus) pointed out that telling the story of Jesus, and omitting the Cross is like talking about the 1990’s Chicago Bulls and not talking about Michael Jordan.  The story isn’t only incomplete, it’s wrong.

Just as praying to “Baby Jesus” — because he’s more manageable than Grown Up Jesus — is wrong, too.  

I’m NOT saying that EVERY TIME we talk about Jesus, we have to include the gospel, or Calvary, or the Cross.  That would be a silly legalism.

I am saying that we need to come to the place, in our own hearts, where the Cross is so central to the identity of Jesus and the mission of the Jesus, that the fact of Calvary colors everything else we say about him.  The message of the Cross should permeate our thoughts of Christ as salt permeates the sea. 

Because Christmas is the set up for Good Friday, which is the setup for Easter which is the setup for the over-the-top party of the eternal Great Banquet that is heaven.

That is the whole truth. I’m a witness. Merry Christmas.

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10 thoughts on “The truth… the whole truth… and…

  1. Thanks, Dr. G, for this “whole truth” about Christmas.

    At our church’s Christmas program reach-out, our pastor mentioned “sin” in his Christmas message. It’s not a word people want to hear at Christmas either. But, as you said, that’s the whole truth and needs to be said. We present a fabulous evening of music, fun, dessert, and the Christmas message (including the sin part). Praise God for that. However, three people got up and walked out when it got too heavy for them (the sin part). Very sad indeed.

    I laughed, too, at the Talledega Nights clip – especially the “Finish the d___ grace!” part. At the end, the narcisisstic father did get it right by calling Jesus “Dear Baby God” though. Even in their stupidity, the Truth gets out.

  2. Merry Christmas to you! Thank you for your insight and for using your gifts of writing to encourage us all.

  3. Thanks Bill. You nailed it! The “Talledega Nights” scene is hilarious and very revealing of our cultures perception of Jesus. However, as a Detroit sports fan, I am still dealing with the Chicago Bulls/Michael Jordan reference. Oh well. Your “Secret Jesus” sermon series is really great!

  4. Michael B.
    Thanks for your kind comments, and condolences on being Detroit fan. What’s the Lion’s record right now… ? uhhh… O-14? Ouuuuuuuccccchhhh!
    Bill

  5. Okay, this is so nit-picky, but its the point I’m always harping on, so I’d feel remiss in not pointing it out:

    The whole truth of Christmas?

    Don’t you mean the essential truth? Because the reduction to a subsisting and necessary idea is about essence, not totality.

    The WHOLE truth of Christmas is a multi-faceted, overflowing (if I may mix my metaphors) narrative of the closing of the gap between God and Man, Creator and created, spirit and matter, etc, etc. It’s the fullness of the Incarnation.

    The culmination of Jesus life in the salvific sacrifice and resurrection is the essential and necessary truth of that narrative, but isn’t the WHOLE truth.

    P.S. This is what you get for having philosophers commenting on your ‘blog. 🙂

  6. Jonathan…
    Philosophers are welcome… and you’re right, except that saying, “The truth, the essential truth, and nothing but the truth” doesn’t make for interesting writing.

    I’ll grant you necessary and essential if you grant me CENTRAL and DEFINING.

    Bill

  7. Bill,
    I often said if I were asked to preach a Christmas Sermon (without political rantings and mentioning the Cubs) I would call it “Everyone loves the Baby”. Everyone loves baby Jesus. He didn’t preach about sin. He didn’t confront us about our wicked selves. He didn’t tell us that He was the SOLE way to Salvation. And finally, He didn’t die a horrific death for our sins. Baby Jesus is the prologue, just a part of the story God wants to tell us.
    Thanks for putting it to words better than I could.

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