Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why an Islamic "Christmas message" was so wrong...

Just in case you missed the news, England's "Channel 4" featured a "Christmas Message" from Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Set aside, if you can, this man's anti-Semitism, his quest for nuclear proliferation (and his apocalyptic purposes for it) and any number of other distasteful political realities. Understand, instead, why an "Islamic Christmas Message" is an oxymoron.

Tomorrow, the First Sunday after Christmas, many churches will hear this same lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary:

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
  1. In the birth of Jesus, the religion of legal code is replaced by relationship with the Savior. Islam is a reassertion of "submission" under a new code revealed to its Prophet - it has nothing to do with what Christmas reveals.
  2. The birth of Christ is the turning point of all history. It is God's action in the "fullness of time." There is no need for another revelation or a new Prophet who points to something other than Jesus Christ.
  3. These verses explain the birth of Jesus through the mysterious unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father rules all reality, the Son shares our human nature to restore our broken relationship with the Father, and the Spirit of God takes residence within us to complete this work when we receive the Savior by faith. Islam, like all other religions and philosophies besides Christianity, is offended by this revelation of The Holy Trinity and therefore cannot rightly deliver a "Christmas message."

It is true that the Messiah ("Christos" in Greek) is called "Prince of Peace" in ancient prophecies shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Jesus blesses meek, merciful and peacemaking people. He is pleased when His people work to be good neighbors, even with those who are hostile toward them.

But this effort to be gentle and peaceful is never meant to be a compromise of Christian faith - this is why Jesus also blesses those who are persecuted "on his account." And this is why a "Christmas Message" by a Muslim, one who holds a minimal, historical "belief" in Jesus but cannot place faith in Him, is so wrong.

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