As I thought about heading into the New Year and leaving the Christmas season behind, it struck me that it is, indeed, easy to “leave Christmas behind.” That thought brought to mind an old Larnelle Harris song that describes a son helping his father put away the Christmas stuff. The son asks, “Do we store away Jesus, too?” A cute question posed in childlike innocence, but it prompted me to ask myself a related question as I head into the New Year.
The related question is this: “Will I go into the New Year having left Jesus in the manger?” Let me explain.
Of course, we Christians don’t believe that Jesus really remained in the manger. We believe He grew up, died, was resurrected, and ascended to Heaven where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. This assertion is at the heart of the Apostle’s Creed, which rests on Scriptures that affirm this proposition.
What I realized, however, is that when we focus on the Advent without remembering the subsequent corresponding Ascension, we can be guilty of leaving Jesus in the manger. How do we do this?
We leave Jesus in the manger whenever we think of Him as only the Savior of our eternal souls and forget that Scripture says the ascended Christ Child is the presently reigning Lord over all things, including human government, and that He is in the process of bringing all things back under His rightful rule. Not to confess this or to try to soften its expression so as not to offend those who do not believe what we believe is another way to leave Jesus in the manger.
Given the work I do, I most often see Jesus left in the manger when Christians disengage from politics, as if civil government is somehow not subject to God. I see Jesus still lying in the manger when Christians in politics tell me that something they really know is wrong is “just politics,” as if that makes it all right or understandable. I see Jesus left in the manger when Christians allow civil government to curtail religious liberty without massive resistance.
To be honest, when it comes to politics, it’s easy to leave Jesus in the manger. Christian engagement in politics is messy and difficult. It can lose you friends and curtail your influence with the influential. To even come close to doing it right requires a great measure of Scripture study, prayer, and perseverance. It requires a very real trust in the goodness of God’s eternal provision when the world crushes down on us, as it will inevitably seek to do. The world likes a Jesus that stays in the manger, and they like the Christians who are willing to leave Him there.
As I head into the New Year, I know there will be moments and situations in which I will be tempted to disengage, when I’ll be tempted to go along just to get along, and I will need to ask myself, “Am I leaving Jesus in the manger?”
In those moments, I’ll need to remember not to leave Jesus where I found Him at Christmas. If you’re a Christian, I hope you’ll not leave Him there either.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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