It came to me as I surveyed a local bookstore. Many people write and believe things earnestly which are false, even monstrously so. And I saw such a book, authored by a noted celebrity. Right then, I understood as clear as day the truth of Christmas: it’s not about cultural conservatism, clean living, or patriotic fellow-feeling; the issue is fundamentally Christological.
The message that this author needs to hear, that you and I need to hear, is that God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Pure, unflinching anti-Arian, anti-Gnostic, “of one substance with the Father” Nicene Christology is Christmas.
Anything less is something else.
What this tells me quite plainly is that so-called “co-belligerency” is insufficient, and it may have led us to cultural or political unities that have nothing to do with Christ. If I’m right about this, we have an opportunity as Christians to take a very bold step this Christmas, and indeed also on that other central Christian holy day of Easter: let’s all join our Catholic brethren at Mass.
What would it say to all the notoriously uninterested people in our lives, to the impeccably dressed door-to-door heretics, to all the ignorant who view our disparate confessions as a vindication of their “to each his own” philosophies, if we emptied our churches and showed up?
It would say that in terms of the most important questions for Christianity — Christ’s person and work — we really do speak with one voice. What would it say to all the scandalous within the Catholic ranks if we Protestants refused the Eucharist in humble submission to our brothers, while they presented themselves?
It brings to mind a friend of mine who had attended a Catholic conference on marriage and sexuality as a Protestant with his father, a Catholic. As he told me how “awesome” it was, and as we talked through how much we appreciated the Catholic Church’s teaching on these issues, a nominal Catholic walked by and asked, “If you agree with so much, why aren’t you Catholic?” As I sheepishly answered, “Justification,” and asked him if he knew what that meant, I realized that maybe, just maybe, it was not the bulwark of the Church as Luther had supposed. All this guy knew was that we were Jesus-freaks, and we were excited. Maybe that’s all they need to know.
I am not saying Catholics are right in all that they say. I am not necessarily saying our protests have no merit. What I am saying is that Acts 4:12 reads the same way all over – there is only one name that saves, the name of the Son, the Son who was born a baby on Christmas day. What if the watching world could not only hear that, but see it too? If we all — Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant — filled the streets in every city, because there was no room?
If we did this, I can hear the pagans moaning, “Oh, no, the Christians are at it again!” And this brings me no small amount of joy to imagine.
Jason Kettinger is a contributing editor to Open for Business.