Sharing Jesus this Christmas
“For all the miracles of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace himself was a man. And he walked through this world in the most human way possible. With love. He didn’t have much, but what he did have, he shared, and it became plenty. Food, water, shelter, care. He met the world around him with empathy. Saw hunger, and shared the food from his plate. Saw thirst, and poured for them from his own cup. Saw sickness, and offered his time for their healing. Soothed them with his human hands. Jesus Christ found it in his earthly heart to give of himself to the people who loved him… and even to the people who betrayed him… to all people. That a baby in a manger could grow up to become a man who taught a world of people what it means to love one another, that’s the spirit of this season. And it lives inside each and every one of us. The greatest joy of being human is to love one another. And when we share that love, that is the greatest gift of all.”-Disney’s EPCOT Christmas Candlelight Concert
Years ago, Jennifer and I were invited to attend EPCOT’s Christmas Candlelight performance. Beforehand, we were at an event where we were privileged to hear from the creator and producer of the event. He shared his vision for the event when it began it 1994. It would be a simple telling of the Christmas story by guest narrators reading their script directly from the Gospels, like the brilliance of Peanuts, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Interwoven with the narration would be a chorale performance, accompanied by a full orchestra, singing traditional songs of the Savior’s birth. Other than the welcome and good night by the narrator, it was all about Jesus, straight from Scripture. Disney bought in, and Candlelight has been Disney’s most popular event year after year.
When our girls were in high school, their choir auditioned and was selected to be a part of the Candlelight choir year after year. Through the years, we’ve heard Whoopie Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, John Stamos and many others narrate. Our favorite was the narrator we heard that very first night, Steven Curtis Chapman.
Imagine our disappointment when we attended Candlelight last year and discovered they had changed their script. Thankfully, it was still all Scripture until the end, and all the music still centered on our Savior’s birth. But Disney chose to change the ending, adding their own spin on the meaning of Jesus’ birth. Their new script, shared above, is a reflection of what our culture wants to think about Jesus.
What does the world want us to think about Jesus?
- The Prince of Peace himself was a man. It’s subtle, but it’s important. Yes, Jesus was a man. But more than that, the incarnation means that Jesus is God become man. He is fully God, and in His incarnation, from conception forward, fully man. The world doesn’t accept the fact that Jesus is divine. He is, always was, and always will be God. To say Jesus “was a man” is to intimate that he no longer lives. He’s history. He’s dead and gone. No! The Prince of Peace lives and reigns today!
- He walked through this world in the most human way possible. With love. Our world wants to believe that Jesus’ sole mission was to spread love. He wanted us to be loved, for the world to be filled with love, not hate. That’s what his life was all about. Love. There’s so much wrong with this statement. Where do I possibly begin? Well, first of all, love is not “the most human way possible.” God is love. We love because He first loved us. Love is actually the “most divine way possible.” This is the gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” “But God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus came as the promised Messiah to save us from our sins. That’s the kind of love Jesus came to share. His name, Jesus, actually means “Savior.” Of course, Jesus loved people in practical and powerful ways. But His mission was clear. He came to give His life as a ransom for many, the Lamb of God, crucified and resurrected to save us from our sins.
- He met the world around him with empathy. Saw hunger, and shared the food from his plate. This is clearly an allusion to the Feeding of the 5000 and the Feeding of the 4000. But we don’t actually see Jesus sharing his own food, “food from his plate.” He takes someone else’s lunch, performs a miracle, and multiplies the food to feed thousands. Now, I’m not saying Jesus wouldn’t share his own food. I’m just saying that’s not what is recorded in the gospels. This revision omits the miraculous. Jesus’ miracles were the verification of fulfilled prophecies that He in fact was the promised Messiah. To say Jesus poured water from his own cup to share with the thirsty is a nice sentiment. We just don’t see it actually happen. Jesus does instruct His followers to give a cup of cold water in His name though. And to the sick, Jesus offered his time? Yes, Jesus did pay attention to the sick, afflicted and oppressed. But more than just His time, Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, offered divine healing. Again, the world would prefer to edit out the miraculous in Jesus’ story because that would suggest Jesus was more than just a really good man.
- Jesus taught the world what it means to love one another. That’s the spirit of this season. Love, love, love. That’s the message. However you choose to define love. Love is love. The reality is, Jesus taught and set an impossibly high standard for love. He showed us how to love. To put others first. To sacrifice. To forgive. To lay down one’s life. Perfect love. Agape love. Divine love. Jesus’ love wasn’t defined by tolerance. It was defined by righteousness. His was a holy love. His love didn’t, it doesn’t, ignore sin. It offers grace and mercy and forgiveness for sin. What’s the spirit of Christmas? It’s impossible to think about the meaning of Christmas without thinking of why Jesus came in the first place. The meaning of Christmas cannot be separated from the significance of Easter. It’s the whole arc of Jesus’ life. His birth, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The true love of Christmas is that the Lamb of God was born for us.
- That love lives inside each and every one of us. This is an aspirational statement essentially saying that we’re all good people. Deep down, we’re all the same. We all want the same thing. We all are basically good at heart and capable of love and goodness. Is that the reality of the world we live in though? More importantly, is that the truth of Scripture? We’re told plainly, “There is no one who is good. No one is righteous.” We are born with a sin nature. We sin because it comes naturally to us. We are not good at heart. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, full of sin. This is why Jesus came. To be our Savior. To be our sin sacrifice. To save us from our sins.
The feel-good messages we hear around us this Christmas season about peace and love and happiness are a reminder that the world needs Jesus more than ever. The real Jesus. The real gospel. The Way, the Truth and the Life. The Light of the World.
If I were to rewrite the script for the closing of EPCOT’s Candlelight, I would take it straight from Scripture, just as the original creator and producer of the event had envisioned. I would close out Candlelight with a reading of John 1:1-18.
”In him there was life, and that life was light for the people of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not defeated it.“
”He came to the world that was his own. And his own people did not accept him. But some people did accept him. They believed in him, and he gave them the right to become children of God.“
”The Word became a man and lived among us. We saw his divine greatness—the greatness that belongs to the only Son of the Father. The Word was full of grace and truth.“
”No one has ever seen God. The only Son is the one who has shown us what God is like. He is himself God and is very close to the Father.”
Sharing love this Christmas season is not the greatest gift of all. Sharing Jesus is! Sharing with our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and classmates that forgiveness for sins and eternal salvation is found in Jesus’ name is to share with them the greatest gift of all!
This is the message the angel brought to Mary and Joseph, the message the angels sang to the shepherds. This is the message our world needs to hear.
Jesus, Christ the LORD, our Savior is born!