“The Christian Gospel . . . is first of all a message that you need to be saved . . . by what [Christ] has done. . . . But if the biblical story begins ‘Once upon a time,’ if it is inspiring advice and not the declaration of the greatest events in history, then it is all nonsense. Christmas shows us that Christianity is not good advice. It is good news.”- Timothy Keller
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.”- Matthew 1:1 (NIV)
In Chapter 2 (“The Mothers of Jesus”) of Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller notes that Matthew’s Gospel account of Jesus’ birth starts with a long, seemingly tedious genealogy. Because the Christmas story tells more than the birth of Jesus. It is also about a coming. A coming God planned before He ever created the Earth (Revelation 13:8).
Therefore, Rev. Keller talks about what Mattew’s genealogy tells us about the meaning of Christmas and Christianity. So, Timothy looks at two things Matthew does not say and two things that he does say.
First, Rev. Keller observes, Matthew chose not to use the typical way fairy tales, myths, legends and Star Wars begin; ‘Once upon a time.’ That means Matthew grounds what Jesus Christ is and does in history. Hence, Jesus isn’t a metaphor. Rather, He’s real and this all happened. And the good news urges you to recognize that event and respond to it.
Thus, the Gospel narratives provide good news, not good advice. Furthermore, Pastor Keller explains:
“The founders of the great religions say, in one way or another, ‘I am here to show you the way to spiritual reality. Do all this.’ That’s advice. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, comes and says, ‘I am spiritual reality itself. You could never come up to me and, therefore, I had to come down to you.’ That’s news.”
Today’s question: How do you respond to people who only see the Christian Gospel as good advice? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Grounding Jesus in history”