The Word Became Flesh

This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.  I love the Christmas story and all the wonderful memories and traditions that surround the Christmas season.  I love singing the carols.  I love being with family and friends.  But Christmas is more than a season, it is more than the great memories we have and more than tradition.  It is the marking each year of the belief we hold that the God of the universe became a part of His creation.  This birth we celebrate is more than a great leader’s birth, more than the birth of a prophet or great teacher, what we say at Christmas is that this is the birth of the God/man Jesus Christ.  This claim, incredible as it is, is validated not on Christmas, but Easter.  It is because he rose from the dead that we can say He is God. Continue reading


The Problem With Jesus

Jesus does not create much of a problem at Christmas.  There are those who object to the Christianization of culture and therefore want the greeting of this season to be “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  But the real rub with culture—and perhaps there are those who sense it as they try to push Christianity from the public square—is the exclusivity claims of orthodox Christianity.  This part of Christian teaching is anathema to a culture that suggests the only way to encounter God is through Jesus.  If we were to say that Jesus is one way that women and men can come to know god, or even a way that one can encounter the creator of all that is, there would not be the pushback from others in culture except for the dominant position Christianity has held in western culture and the distinctly Christian residue that helps make western culture what it is today.  If Christianity claimed that Jesus is one of the ways men and women can know God the reaction would be different.  To be sure, men and women can be spiritual without Jesus, the New Testament is very clear that there are other kinds of spirits and spirituality, often a spirituality that is inwardly focused.  But the rub is in the exclusive claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father is a problem in today’s world. Continue reading

Authority and Leadership

American Christians do not have a strong view of human beings in leadership positions and their roles in our spiritual development.  Nathan Hatch, in his book The Democratization of American Christianity, chronicles the American Revolution and how the leaders of that revolution wrapped themselves in Christianity to make their distinctively political points in the revolution.  At the same time the political revolution was taking place a revolution in the church was taking place against the established (and educated) leaders of the church who largely came from England.  This egalitarianism of religious leaders served to emphasize those who could draw a crowd and energize an audience rather than the traditional appointees from England who were educated, trained and accountable.  One wonders if the present-day hostility toward leadership in our country and the loss of ‘respect for the office’ is a natural upshot of this original trajectory. Continue reading