Christmas and Unbelief

Here we are in the Christmas season; a season that seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. How long have Christmas decorations been up at the mall? If you were from another planet and came to our country and observed our whole country celebrating Christmas in the manner we do, what might you think? You may ask someone, “So what does this word “Christmas” mean?”

“Well, it’s a compound word. “Christ” and the ancient “mass,” which was The Lord’s Supper. Christ is the biblical title for Jesus and the Lord’s Supper celebrates what he did dying for us. So the word Christmas means “celebrating Jesus who came to save us.”

“What are these decorations everywhere for?”

“Our culture celebrates Jesus coming to save us.”

“What about all these songs I hear in the background of the stores?”

“They are songs about Jesus like, ‘O holy Night the stars are brightly shining/it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth’ or ‘Joy to the World! the Lord has come…let heaven and nature sing…’”

“Interesting…So are all the people shopping for presents at the mall and all the people decorating their homes with Christmas lights and all the people you pass real believers in Jesus?”

“No! Are you kidding? It’s one giant celebration of something most of us don’t really believe.”

Something’s clearly not getting through to our culture. Seeing but not seeing. Hearing but not hearing. Knowing but not understanding. That is what unbelief is – the suppression of truth that could save, but it doesn’t and therefore, it can’t.

Another example of modern unbelief is Christopher Hitchens (pictured below). You may have seen in the news that Hitchens died on Thursday. You may or may not know who he is. He and Richard Dawkins are the two most well-known modern day atheists. He was a brilliant writer and thinker and held many debates with evangelicals. Hitchens understood Christianity. In fact, he probably understood it better than most Christians. But that didn’t mean that he believed it.

A few years ago a film was made of a series of debates between Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson, entitled “Collision.” The movie ends with the two of them in the back of a limo and Hitchens, the famous atheist, says this:

“If I could convert everyone in the world – not convert, if I could convince – to be a non-believer and I’d really done brilliantly, and there’s only one left, one more, and then it’d be done – there’d be no more religion in the world, no more deism, theism, I wouldn’t do it…I don’t quite know why I wouldn’t do it. And it’s not just because there’d be…no one left to argue with. It’s not just that, though it would be that. Somehow if I could drive it out of the world, I wouldn’t.”

In these words we hear the most famous and articulate atheist of our time groping in the darkness of his unbelief for something he instinctively knew he needed.

Where are you today? Missing heaven by 12 inches (the distance between your head and your heart)? What is needed is what Jesus said in John 12:36, While you have the light, believe in the Light. Jesus is that light. May you believe fully and truly in him today.

The flip side of this is that for genuine believers here today, we are reminded of God’s gracious act in allowing us to see who Christ is and to believe in him. Who can boast? Who can say, “Look at me”? What do we have that God has not given to us? Let’s allow this reminder to humble us and rekindle in our hearts the wonder that God would show such love to us.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2011 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

1 comment

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  1. Lindsay

    “Knowing but not understanding. That is what unbelief is – the suppression of truth that could save, but it doesn’t and therefore, it can’t.” Yes, that’s exactly it for many atheists. Another sad reality is that many Christians who do know and understand are, at the same time, living in unbelief. A good question for Christians is “Do you believe God, and not just believe in Him?”

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