Even the most vigilant heresy-hunter seems to become tame and docile at Christmas, which is surprising in view of the half-truths and untruths contained in some carols.
Consider for a moment these lines from famous carols we sing at this time of the year...
It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold
Harps on earth or in heaven are only played by humans in the scriptures. Harps are mentioned 54 times in the Bible, never regarding angels.
‘Once in Royal David’s City
Stood a lowly cattle shed...
Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by...’
There is no mention of cattle, oxen, cattle sheds or a stable in the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. All we know is that Jesus was laid in a manger, which was a feeding trough for animals.
‘How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!’ (O little town of Bethlehem)
We are not told that giving birth to Jesus was any easier for Mary than normal. It was therefore probably as noisy as any birth without pain relief today would be!
‘See amid the winter’s snow
Born for us on earth below’
A hangover from Victorian sentimentality I’m afraid. There was no snow when Jesus was born.
‘Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace’ (Silent night)
The Christmas cards may picture baby Jesus with a halo and radiant face, but there is absolutely no indication that he looked any different from any other baby.
The sentimentalisation of Christmas does the real Jesus a great disservice. In order to redeem fallen human beings Jesus had to be both fully God AND fully human. It also robs us of the encouragement that comes from knowing that we have a Saviour who can empathise with us in every way, because he was just like us, minus the sin.
The writer of Hebrews wanted us to know the truth about Jesus:
‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Heb 4:15-16)
Being sure about Jesus humanness is essential if we are to draw near to him. Only when we worship the Jesus who knew what it was to feel our human weakness will we have the confidence that he will accept us when we approach him in OUR time of weakness.