Here’s a repost of Brother Keith Petersen’s Blog To the RemnantThe Foolishness of Christmas
When I was a young Christian many years ago at a Christian college, one of my professors brought in an article for us to read; I believe it was called “Such Foolishness.” The author looked at 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and wrote about the “foolishness” of the Gospel, meaning that from the perspective of an unbeliever, the message of Christianity is indeed foolish; however, to believers, Jesus’ death and resurrection are our salvation. Verse 18 sums it up well: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I don’t remember many of the specifics, but that concept has stuck with me all of these years.
Gore Vidal, who was an American writer, said back in 1992, “Christianity is such a silly religion.” Much more recently, in 2015, podcaster Joe Rogan ranted for 6+ minutes against Christianity, saying, “Christianity at the end of the day with no proof–everything is mythology.” In the same podcast, he said, “The whole thing is so stupid.” Both Vidal and Rogan exemplify the first part of 1 Corinthians 1:18, which is that Christianity’s message is foolish to unbelievers.
With the Christmas season very much upon us, I’ve been thinking about this more specifically in terms of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. On the most fundamental level, Christmas is about the Incarnation, meaning that God became man. From a secular point of view, this sounds foolish. Why would God become man? Why would He leave His heavenly realm to live among mankind? Taking it a step further, why would God choose to be born as a helpless baby? Added to that, why would Jesus enter the world at a dangerous time, when He would be relentlessly pursued by a bloodthirsty, power-hungy king (Herod) who was so bent on killing Him that “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under”? (Matthew 2:16)
Another aspect of Jesus’ birth that I’m sorry to say even some churchgoers have found hard to believe is the fact that Jesus was born to a virgin, both because it required a miracle and because of what people would naturally assume about a woman being pregnant before marriage. Unbelievers naturally regard this as additional foolishness: the Son of God born to either a “virgin” or a loose woman! I have a relative who for many years found this to be a major stumbling block before he (thankfully!) came to faith in Christ at a very advanced age. Some Biblical interpreters have tried to explain away the virgin birth by saying that a “virgin” can refer to just a young woman, not necessarily one who has never had sex. However, Matthew 1:25 is very clear: “But he [Joseph] had no union with her [Mary] until she gave birth to a son.”
Thinking about the place of Jesus’ birth, you might expect that the King of the universe would be born into a palace, but not so. Luke 2:7 tells us that after Jesus was born, Mary “wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” When we look at nativity scenes, they look very sanitized, but if you think about it, what is a manger? It’s a feeding trough for cattle and horses to eat from. Now, I would imagine that Joseph did his best to clean out the trough for his baby son to lie in, but regardless, I don’t imagine that it was very clean. There may have very well been such animals there, as well.
When the message first went out about Jesus’ birth, it came through an angel of the Lord, which is what we might expect. However, this mighty angel appeared to “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (Luke 2:8) Shepherds were not exactly the upper class of society; various writers have written descriptions such as their not being esteemed by society; others have written harsher things about them, such as their being despised by most people. They were usually treated as outsiders who were “almost never clean enough to worship with God’s people in God’s presence.” (Bill Sytsma) Like the place where He was born, this emphasizes our Lord’s humility, which again seems foolish to non-Christians. I should add, however, that in Matthew’s account, we are told in Chapter 2 that Magi from the east came to Bethlehem to visit Jesus; they were astrologers and/or astronomers. There are various ideas about who they were, but they may have been priests descended from the previous Medo-Persian empire. They were at the very least of a higher social class than the shepherds. Regardless of exactly who they were, God had revealed Himself to them and had shown them by “the star they had seen in the east” (Matthew 2:9) where to go to find Jesus. By this time, however, Jesus was probably at least a year old and was living in a “house” (Matthew 2:11) So, the Lord revealed Himself in the person of baby Jesus to the high and the low of society, but to the low first.
Beyond the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, of course, many other things have been said and written about the “foolishness” of Christianity. The culmination of this, of course, is in the death of our Savior, the sinless Son of God, by crucifixion. Again, the first part of 1 Corinthians 1:18 comes to mind: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” And then, of course, there is the miracle of the glorious resurrection, which to Christians is, among other things, the promise of our own resurrection one day, but which to unbelievers is more foolishness.
So yes, from a secular point of view, there is so much foolishness regarding the true meaning of Christmas, and by extension, the entire Gospel. Here is another wonderful verse from that section of 1 Corinthians 1, this time verse 21: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” Yes, the Lord saves those who believe the “foolishness” of the Gospel!
If you are reading this and are not a Christian, I pray that this Christmas season will be the time that you come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!
(Two years ago, I made a quiz about Christmas that you may enjoy taking a look at; click here if you’re interested: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/12/16/a-christmas-quiz/)