As Christians in America we may sometimes find it difficult to fully engage with the monolithic seasonal tradition that our nation calls “Christmas,” especially when the secular elements found within the holiday seem diametrically opposed to our biblical understanding of Christ’s birth. Clearly some of these blatantly unholy traditions are easily rejected or denounced, but others might provide an opening for us to promote the Gospel. How, then, do we do so without damaging our witness and bringing dishonor to our Lord Jesus Christ?
Although our American Christmas in general is slowly morphing into a more religion-neutral holiday, there is little argument that the British Victorians, inspired by the literary imagery of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, have set the basic groundwork for the symbols and traditions that still frame our country’s romantic vision of Christmas. The problem with this, of course, is that we inherited a somewhat broken system where secular traditions and Christianity continue to collide. Clearly the Victorian Brits often struggled with finding the proper focus for the celebration of Christmas with their confusing cultural mix of pagan symbolism, Romish tradition, and Anglo-Saxon heritage.
Indeed, the most famous preacher of the Victorian era, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, reflected this uncertainty in regards to England’s mongrelized Christmas, a hesitancy found especially among Protestants. In studying his sermons on the subject of Christmas, we find that Mr. Spurgeon was very reluctant to endorse the holiday throughout his ministry but certainly took advantage of the opportunity to expound on the doctrine of the Incarnation during that time of national focus. The tension always came, however, when he tried to strike the perfect balance between acknowledging the holiday’s doctrinal significance and warning against its inherent spiritual dangers from an ecclesiastical and cultural standpoint. As Jordan Standridge explains:
“Spurgeon was no Buddy-the-Elf when it came to Christmas. In fact, he resembled the Grinch more, but no one can deny that he loved the opportunity Christmas created to exalt and point people to Jesus Christ.”
The Curious Case Of The Victorian Christmas Postcard
Perhaps it is easy to understand Mr. Spurgeon’s love-hate relationship with Christmas when you look at how the Victorians often greeted each other during Christmas with their popular use of postcards to express their sentiments with festive, full-color illustrations and pithy messages. It is notable that many of these greeting cards paid homage to the religious or familial significance of Christmas, but a significant number of these postcards were anything but reverential in tone. In fact, some were eccentric, morbid, or somewhat creepy, with a wink to sin and a complete disregard for the season’s more loving and devotional themes.
The strange, anthropomorphic depictions of frogs, insects, or cats displaying cruel or bizarre behavior in various winter scenes brought a confusion that was only compounded by its pairing with the cheery salutations printed below the illustrations that often read, “Happy Christmas!” or “Wishing you the blessings of the season!” Amazingly, this untamed display of wacky, irreverent British humor preceded Monty Python’s Flying Circus by almost a century.
Here are a few striking examples pictured below:
America Follows The Victorian Example
Of course, America today is not to be outdone by these religious deflections and cultural distractions first invented by the Victorians. We, too, have found time to take the sacred observance of Christ’s birth and turn it into mere fodder for irreligious silliness and merriment. Most of us are all too familiar with the tragic ballad of someone’s grandmother being run over by a large antlered creature from the arctic region. Or how about the famous “Singing Dogs” canine choir with their pitch-perfect vocal rendition of “Jingle Bells.” And last but not least, we can never forget the plethora of Christmas romance movies from Hallmark that some might say are the most outrageous and subversive jokes of the season.
I bring up these contemporary examples in lighthearted jest, but my momentary diversion should not cause us to miss the serious point of the matter. For all the innocent but impulsive amusements we might enjoy during this time of year, there is a tragic consequence when we as a nation focus too much on such empty pursuits. The result? Namely this: an increasing disregard for the religious underpinnings of Christmas in order to break free from any obligation to God, especially in our seasonal pursuits of revelry and materialism.
The question for today’s thinking Christians, therefore, is whether or not to completely ignore such obvious attempts to downgrade the spiritual significance of the holiday, or rather to be on the lookout for those more-serious secular elements that provide us with an opening to share our faith and return the focus to Jesus. In looking back at the curious phenomenon of Christmas postcards produced in Victorian England, there was a notable example of just such an opportunity that might have been available to Christians who lived at the time, and could provide a template for our future use.
The Symbolism Of The Christmas Robin
One of the most prevalent symbols presented on the Christmas postcards of the Victorian era was the celebrated bird of the United Kingdom: the European robin, or more commonly known as the “robin redbreast.” Whether perched on a wintry twig, wearing a silk top hat, or holding a Christmas message in his beak, the robin was the character who most often greeted friends and family through the mail during the holiday season.
Why was the robin such a standard feature on British Christmas postcards back then? Two of the most popular answers seem reasonable enough. First, according to the 1678 writings of the English naturalist John Ray, the robin was synonymous with Christmas because the bird, normally hidden in the woodlands during the summer, would become bold, sociable and “familiar with man” as they sought out alternative food sources from cultivated shrubs and gardens in the winter-time. Over time, the robin became “a special part of [British] heritage which has evolved hand-in-hand with our distinctive traditional landscape” of a snow-covered Christmas in Britain.
Secondly, as reported by David Chapman, the English “robin redbreast” gave its name to the first Royal Mail postmen who wore red jackets as part of their uniform and soon became affectionately known as “robins.” At Christmas, people eagerly awaited the arrival of cards and letters from loved ones far and wide – delivered by their own local “robins.” It was only a matter of time, therefore, that artists began using robins in their postcard illustrations as the logical symbol of the Christmas greeting by mail.
The Legend Of The Christmas Robin
Neither of these historical backstories, however, explain how the robin became connected to the spiritual significance of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. To find a direct link to Christianity, we must look farther back to the ancient British lore of the robin. These quaint legends speak to man’s heartfelt desire to find religious meaning in the world around them, and Christians were certainly no exception. As such, the European peoples of old were understandably drawn to the distinctive red breast of the robin and began to creatively speculate on how it may have gotten there. Two fables emerged over time from Europe’s growing Christian sentimentality and eventually took root in Britain.
According to The Sun newspaper: “One legend has it that when Mary was giving birth in the stable, the fire was dying and the robin used its wings to fan the flames. As the robin flew close to the fire, an ember flew up and made his breast glow red. Upon seeing this, Mary declared that the red breast was a sign of the bird’s kind heart and that the bird and all its descendants would wear a red breast proudly from that moment on.”
The other ancient tale, according to David Chapman, suggests that on the day of Christ’s crucifixion “a robin pulled a thorn from the crown of Christ whilst he was on the cross.” Hence, it was Christ’s blood that fell upon the bird’s breast and forever stained it red.
Of course, both of these sweet fables are nothing more than wisps of poetic homage to our Lord and Savior, but there is a spiritual reality in the legendary tale of the robin to which Victorian Christians might have related. Surely true disciples, like robins, must also display the unique “colors” that identify them as witnesses of the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Is this not a thought supported by God’s word and worthy of our contemplation? John 13:35 comes to mind, among many others: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
The Spiritual Application Of The Christmas Robin
In studying the history of the Christmas robin in Victorian postcards, however, I was struck by another particular aspect of this British tradition that speaks to the grace and mercy that is found in Christ alone. One of the common themes in these vintage postcards is the depiction of a hungry, destitute, or dying robin shivering in a cold, snowy landscape. Perhaps this image seems strange as a token of good cheer and Christmas blessing, but to me it holds forth the most compelling biblical imagery in which to direct our hopes, thoughts, and activities as Christians this time of year.
Certainly the poor robin of winter, though a beloved mascot for the British people, speaks to Christians everywhere as we contemplate the spiritual state of lost men and women. It is a call to empathy for those less fortunate, not just temporally speaking, but also for those who are spiritually hungry and in desperate need of the bread of life.
Not surprisingly, Charles Spurgeon saw the same symbolic significance in his day and used it on at least two occasions during his sermons. In 1896, he described the “poor in spirit” as a robin outside his window who fed on his food, then flew away to tell the other birds of his bounty:
“In the depth of winter, at a time when I had a balcony to my study, I put some crumbs out upon it, and there came a robin redbreast, first, and he pecked, and ate all he could. I do not know his language, but I fancy I can tell what he said, for he went away and came back with ever so many sparrows and other birds! He had said to them, ‘There are crumbs up here, come and get them.’ And they all came, and they came in greater numbers every day—and I do not know how it was except that they told one another…
Oh, there are some of you, dear robin redbreasts, that have been here ever so long, and have been eating my Master’s crumbs! You have brought some sparrows to the feast—now try to entice a blackbird, and if there is one blackbird bigger and bleaker than another, go and fetch him, and bring him, for Jesus says that He will cast out none that come to Him by faith—and you may be sure that it is true, for He is ‘a friend of publicans and sinners.'”
Later in his sermon titled, “Solace For Sad Hearts” from 1912, the Prince of Preachers once again saw the mournful seeker drawn to Zion as a timid robin:
“They are like the robin redbreast in the winter time—they venture near the house and tap upon the window pane—and yet are half afraid to come in. When the cold is very severe and they are very hungry, they are daring and pick up a crumb or two. Still, for the most part, they stand at the temple door and mourn. They are in Zion and they sigh and cry because they feel unworthy so much as to lift their eyes towards heaven! Ah, well, the Lord appoints great blessings for you—He is good to those who seek Him.”
Clearly we see that Mr. Spurgeon was inspired by the simple beauty found in his country’s affection for the winter robin and used it with great effect to provoke us to greater purpose for the glory of God. Likewise, we must take every advantage possible during this Christmas season to scatter the crumbs of the Gospel to the poor birds outside the doors of our homes and our churches.
With that goal in mind, I leave you with these various quotes from Mr. Spurgeon (compiled by the Spurgeon Center) that speak to our sacred mission during Christmas to disengage from the distractions of our frivolous culture and proclaim the Gospel with all diligence. Challenging us, Mr. Spurgeon said:
“I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. . . . Set an example to others how to behave on that day, and especially since the angels gave glory to God: let us do the same.”
“You must then keep this Christmas by telling to your fellow-men what God’s own holy Spirit has seen fit to reveal to you.”
“When you are at home on Christmas Day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if your friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them.”
“Find something wherewith to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, and make glad the mourner. Remember, it is good will towards men. Try, if you can, to show them goodwill at this special season; and if you will do that, the poor will say with me, that indeed they wish there were six Christmases in the year.”
Bottom line, we don’t need dancing frogs and insects to bring joy to the season (or even robins, for that matter). We need Jesus Christ, for he will save his people from their sins. May God bless you in your efforts to share His good news, not only at Christmas, but throughout the whole year.
Perhaps this very day, as you and I are going to a place named Christmas, miles from the town of Bethlehem, we might talk to each other about all these things that have happened along the way. While we talk and discuss together, we see the world’s distorted image of Jesus put before us and our eyes do not recognize him there. And we suddenly stand still, looking sad.
Have the shortened winter days merely triggered our seasonal affective disorder? Or do we suffer the common holiday malaise brought on by our unmet expectations of a romantic Hallmark Christmas?
More likely, as sincere believers, we are discouraged by the hype and idolatry that corrupts the very real and profound incarnation of our Lord and Savior and turns that joyous, historic event into the consumer-driven focus of tinseled pine, a jolly old elf, and a red-nosed reindeer. No wonder we sometimes speak to each other of spiritual weariness, melancholy, or confusion in the midst of this pretense. What happened to our Lord in all this?
It is here that I find great comfort in the story of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, who were confused and saddened by what had transpired in Jerusalem with the unexpected death of Jesus. How marvelous it would be if likewise the Lord would see us traveling along in a similar spiritual daze this time of year and graciously draw near to us to ask, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”
Then I, like Cleopas, would answer him, “Do you not see what is happening in these days?” And he would say to us, “What things?” And I would say to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, who has been relegated to the icon of a plastic doll in a fictional nativity scene, surrounded by three kings of the orient, a drummer boy, and a talking ox; and how priests still deliver him up to crucify him again and again to no avail in their blasphemous ritual. How can we still see the Christ when the world has brought forth a Jesus of vain tradition?”
And Jesus might say to us, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounds to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. And again he says to us, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
And this is what he patiently and lovingly reminds us from the Scriptures:
Christ would be born of a woman: Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:20; Galatians 4:4
Christ would be born in Bethlehem: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6
Christ would be born of a virgin: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:26-31
Christ would come from the line of Abraham: Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Matthew 1:1; Romans 9:5
Christ would be a descendant of Isaac: Genesis 17:19; Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:34
Christ would be a descendant of Jacob: Numbers 24:17; Matthew 1:2
Christ would come from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14
Christ would be heir to King David’s throne: 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32-33; Romans 1:3
Christ’s throne will be anointed and eternal: Psalm 45:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Luke 1:33; Hebrews 1:8-12
Christ would be called Immanuel: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Christ would spend a season in Egypt: Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15
A massacre of children would happen at Christ’s birthplace: Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18
A messenger would prepare the way for Christ: Isaiah 40:3-5; Luke 3:3-6
Christ would be rejected by his own people: Psalm 69:8; Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11; John 7:5
Christ would be a prophet: Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:20-22
Christ would be preceded by Elijah: Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:13-14
Christ would be declared the Son of God: Psalm 2:7; Matthew 3:16-17
Christ would be called a Nazarene: Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:23
Christ would bring light to Galilee: Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:13-16
Christ would speak in parables: Psalm 78:2-4; Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:10-15, Matt. 13:34-35
Christ would be sent to heal the brokenhearted: Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19
Christ would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek: Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:5-6
Christ would be called King: Psalm 2:6; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 27:37; Mark 11:7-11
Christ would be praised by little children: Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16
Christ would be betrayed: Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 26:14-16
Christ’s price money would be used to buy a potter’s field: Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10
Christ would be falsely accused: Psalm 35:11; Mark 14:57-58
Christ would be silent before his accusers: Isaiah 53:7; Mark 15:4-5
Christ would be spat upon and struck: Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67
Christ would be hated without cause: Psalm 35:19; Psalm 69:4; John 15:24-25
Christ would be crucified with criminals: Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27-28
Christ would be given vinegar to drink: Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34; John 19:28-30
Christ’s hands and feet would be pierced: Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; John 20:25-27
Christ would be mocked and ridiculed: Psalm 22:7-8; Luke 23:35
Soldiers would gamble for Christ’s garments: Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34; Matthew 27:35-36
Christ’s bones would not be broken: Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-36
Christ would be forsaken by God: Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46
Christ would pray for his enemies: Psalm 109:4; Luke 23:34
Soldiers would pierce Christ’s side: Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34
Christ would be buried with the rich: Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60
Christ would resurrect from the dead: Psalm 16:10; Psalm 49:15; Matthew 28:2-7; Acts 2:22-32
Christ would ascend to heaven: Psalm 24:7-10; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51
Christ would be seated at God’s right hand: Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:1; Mark 16:19; Matthew 22:44
Christ would be a sacrifice for sin: Isaiah 53:5-12; Romans 5:6-8
Thus, Jesus opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, and says to us, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things, for I am the Christ.”
Hallelujah! What great joy immediately returns to us as we meditate on the glory of Jesus Christ found in God’s word! For our eyes are now opened, and we recognize him for who he truly is, and we see and worship the true Christ regardless of the world’s holiday distractions. Do we not say to each other, “Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked to us on this road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we walk down the road to Christmas, may we as happy, happy disciples draw alongside the true Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior, and learn from him as he tarries with us along the way. Yes, sometimes it is hard to see him with us, but as Peter so aptly and lovingly reminds us:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:6-9
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. – 1 Peter 5:10-11
May peace be with you all during this joyous season of hope in celebration of Jesus Christ come in the flesh, the true Light shining among mankind in this present world. Amen.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? — James 4:4-5
Friendship with the world means forfeiture of fellowship with God. You can have it one way or the other, but you can’t have it both. God will brook no rival in our hearts. In James 4:4, James says that worldliness is really spiritual adultery if you try to be married to Christ and then be joined to another at the same time. Worldliness is spiritual adultery, and the good life and true wisdom cannot be experienced by those who are worldly and selfish.
James 4:5 gives us a summation of the teaching of Scripture, from the beginning to the end. God’s Spirit indwells us and wants total occupation. He doesn’t want some of you; He wants all of you. I don’t mean that collectively; I mean that individually. He doesn’t want some of you individually; He wants all of you individually. His Spirit will brook no rival. This is seen from the very beginning of God’s salvation, back in Genesis 3:15 when God pronounces His curse against Satan and then brings His judgment to Eve. He blesses her in the midst of the warning judgments by saying, “I will put enmity between you and the serpent, between your seed and his seed.” In other words, I will put enmity between you and the enemy of your soul.
And so God has established an enmity against the world and against worldliness in His peoples’ hearts. And He will brook no rival because He wants all of you, individually. He wants the totality of your love and loyalty and service. And James simply states categorically that friendship with the world is hostility to God, and that if we want to make ourselves to be friends of the world, then we will be enemies of God. It’s one way or the other. And my friends, living in a culture which is prosperous, in which we play a significant role, can work on our hearts over time to make us desire the wrong source of satisfaction. It’s the great, great challenge that we face here. Who do you love? What do you love? Where is your satisfaction? What’s the chief purpose of your life? The honest answers, the quiet answers in your own home and in your own heart to those questions will tell you much about what you need.
If the answer is not God through Jesus Christ, to the question of, “Whom do you love? What do you want? What’s your great satisfaction?” then the only hope is not to look within, because the answers are not found within; they’re found without, they’re found with God in Christ. May God grant us all to look to Him and to walk with Him.
— Excerpt from “Worldliness in the Church” sermon by J. Ligon Duncan
The following testimony from a real, but unnamed Christian parent is presented for the edification of those professing believers embarking on the remarkable journey of parenthood, knowing they are solemnly charged by God to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“Tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” – Psalm 78:4
I am so very sad. Over the past two years, my married daughter, now 30, has slowly drifted away from Christianity and recently confessed an interest in neo-paganism, and specifically animism, which is the belief that all living things in the world have a soul, including plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. My first thought was, how could this be? She was raised in a Christian home, received a biblical education early on, and for most of her childhood, she attended a strong, Bible-believing church. When she was a teenager, her ability to articulate and defend the Gospel in her own words was a great comfort to me as evidence of her true faith.
Because of these past indications of her spiritual quickening, I haven’t completely abandoned the idea that my daughter is presently going through a temporary period of metaphysical confusion and uncertainty. I am obviously not happy about her current state and at times I am quite fearful, but it is my fervent prayer that her early and persistent exposure to God’s word will one day be used by God to draw her closer to Himself before it’s too late. Certainly Proverbs 22:6 speaks to this parental hope.
Yet what haunts me the most as I look back on her childhood is the fact that I also allowed her in the midst of her Christian upbringing to freely enjoy all the Disney entertainment she could possibly want. I knew, of course, that many of the storylines in these animated and live-action films were not specifically Christian in content, but I rested in the belief that they were family-friendly and morally sound in general. But was I correct in this assumption?
One of my daughter’s favorite Disney films back in 1995 was Pocahontas. She was eight years old at the time. She loved that movie and watched the video over and over again. She had the Pocahontas bed sheets and bedspread, and the Meeko the raccoon plush toy to cuddle. She knew the words to every song. It was all pretty silly, of course, but it was somewhat heartening to see my clever daughter get caught up in something more than just the run-of-the-mill fairy tale about a make-believe princess. This was a story based upon real people and historical events about the beginning of our country. It was entertaining and educational, so I thought.
As I think back on it now, however, I am absolutely heartbroken. Why? Because Pocahontas taught my daughter something else that I quite ignored at the time, but now I remember with sickening clarity. Back then, I allowed Disney to teach my little girl all about Pocahontas’ spiritual sentiments in their colorful animation, dramatic dialogue, and the romantic lyrics of their captivating songs. And what was the specific religion that Pocahontas was so intensely passionate about throughout the movie?
Animism, straight up:
“This film [Pocahontas] heavily depicts animism, the religious belief that nature such as plants and animals, possess a spiritual essence. Pocahontas and all the Native Americans in this film believe in spirits and value the nature around them. The Englishmen are depicted as Christians and are in the New World to take it over but instead of them ‘converting’ the Native Americans to their faith, it is Pocahontas that shows John Smith the spiritual way of animism. This is shown through the song ‘Colors of the Wind’ in which Pocahontas reveals to him the wonders of nature and the spirit within all living things and tries to encourage him that things are not meant to be conquered but rather they are meant to be respected and harmonized with people. During this song it is as if nature comes alive where spirits are dancing in the wind. The film also uses the idea of animism through the depiction of human characteristics in nature and animals and trees. This is seen through Grandmother Willow who is a tree that displays a human face; she provides Pocahontas with spiritual guidance and Pocahontas confides in her when she is unsure of what path she should choose. Unlike Disney’s depiction of the Islamic religion as negative and inaccurate, this film is presenting animism in a positive and important way of living.” – Online source
In light of the above description of the movie, how likely is it that my daughter just randomly became interested in a fairly obscure religion like animism later in life? And how is it not connected to her current opinion that Christianity is a religion that seems on the surface to be violently opposed to nature? Is it really just a coincidence that my daughter’s specific spiritual struggle as an adult is the exact same conflict found in the symbolic narrative of this Disney film that pits “ugly Christians” against the more admirable environmentalism and heathen spiritualism of a noble Indian princess?
If you are a Christian parent with a young child, please take heed of my grave caution. You might think all those fantasy books and movies you let your children enjoy are nothing more than fleeting amusements for an innocent imagination. But these entertainments may hold a subtle, or not-so-subtle spiritual teaching that is absolutely contrary to Scripture, and you should never assume that your child will outgrow this corrupting influence when they become more mature. Such fanciful tales may very well plant the seeds of propaganda that lie dormant until the more productive and autonomous season of their adulthood.
Childhood is much like Eden, so be mindful of your parental duty within that landscape. Carefully scrutinize these seemingly-heroic fictional characters of the world and consider what they demonstrate to young empathetic minds captured by their mesmerizing grip. Are the fantastical actions and messages in word and lyric emulating true biblical godliness, or do they reveal a contrary spirit hissing forth subtle lies that undermine the truth of God. Who now has your child’s ear?
Yes, God in His gracious power can lay hold of your children and never let them go, but if you think Satan can’t be allowed to drill down to that buried reservoir of childhood memories and have that spiritual poison bubble up to the surface in their adulthood, you are sadly deceived. As Peter sharply warns us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Indeed, that “someone” may very well be a believer’s precious child who once upon a time knelt at the foot of the bed to sweetly pray to God.
I’ve seen what can happen with my own tear-filled eyes, and I’m ashamed I didn’t see that roaring lion coming for my little girl.
Once there was a man named Philippe. He was a spiritual guide in an emerging community. One day he decided to go on a journey. So, he did. As he was walking along the road, focusing on the journey and not the destination, he found himself alongside the chariot of an African official. The man in the chariot was reading from a parchment scroll. He was reading aloud, so Philippe was able to overhear what the man read:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
Philippe caught up to the chariot and said, “You read that text beautifully. It made me feel significant and connected to ancient traditions to hear you read it.”
“I just wish I could understand it,” the man replied.
“Understand it? You don’t need to understand it. Just experience it. Read it again, more slowly this time. I want to hear the poetic forms and imagine myself in the context of the ancient tradition,” said Philippe.
“Who is he talking about?” the man persisted. “Is the prophet writing about himself or about someone else?”
“I think he is writing about all of us,” said Philippe. “I think we are all a part of the larger story.”
“But what story?” asked the official. “It seems to me that the writer is talking about something in particular, and I sense that it is important. I just wish I knew what it was. What exactly does this mean?”
“What do YOU think it means?” asked Philippe.
“I don’t know. That is why I am asking YOU.”
“Well, it is true that I am a Christ-follower, and my tradition does impose certain meanings on this text. But I would not want to force my truth claims on you. Your truth claims would be equally valid. As you see, we are both on a journey; and we both find ourselves on the same road. So, it follows that our destination is also the same. So, let’s just enjoy this time of community and not divide ourselves by discussing meanings and dogma,” said Philippe.
After awhile, they came to a pool of water by the side of the road. There was also a fork in the road at this point, and the official chose the road to the right. Philippe planned to take the road to the left, but first he sat down by the edge of the pool to journal his experiences of the day. He was delighted that he had had an unique opportunity to engage in a dialogue with a person of a culture so diverse from his own.
Meanwhile, the African official went on his way, still searching for the meaning of the text that could have brought him eternal life.
— Written by Krista Graham, and first published here in 2010.
The most common objection made concerning the Bible is that it can’t be trusted as God’s word because it was written by men and everyone knows men make mistakes. In actuality the Bible was written through men by God. In speaking of how the Bible was written, 2 Peter 1:21 tells us, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible writers, therefore, were not inspired as great artists or inspired to produce great art, but the word translated “inspired” means, “God-breathed.” It literally conveys the idea of God breathing out the scriptures. Man, then, was only the instrument used by God to convey His thoughts in the Bible.