Christmas: Uniquely Christian

Christmas is unique to Christianity because only Christianity has a Twoist God who can be both transcendent and genuinely personal at the same time.

Pagan religions, such as native animism and eastern Hinduism, have no place for Christmas. In a shopping extravaganza comparable to the Western Christmas season, gold jewelry, fine clothing, sweet treats and household goods fly off racks in marketplaces across India in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrating the coming of spiritual knowledge. But in a system of ultimate oneness, there can be no truly special time or event. There is no special coming of Christ, the unique Savior because we are all “christs.”

 

This year Rebecca and I will spend Christmas with our daughter and son-in-law and five children who live in Berlin. They are involved in church planting and out-reach to immigrant Muslims. The first Christmas was a family affair, though the baby was the main point! We will certainly enjoy our family, but Christmas celebrates the uniqueness of Jesus, something no other religion can know.

Islam

Islam’s two major holidays, Eid Al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) and Eid Al-Adha (the beginning of the Hajj) include the celebration of family but not of the coming of Christ, so Islam has no place for Christmas. Neither of Islam’s main figures (Allah and Mohammed) fit into any kind of Christmas narrative.

Allah is completely transcendent and exists alone forever, a totally impersonal being. Sam Solomon, the Christian Islamic scholar says:

The unknowability of Allah is central to the Islamic doctrine of Allah. The Qur’an states that “there is nothing like Him (i.e. Allah)” (Surah 42:11). Allah is unknowable because absolutely transcendent. This is taken to mean that Allah has no “likeness,” “image,” “partner,” or any form of direct revelation.[1]

In Islam, human beings share no image-bearing dignity. We do not reflect the beauty of our Maker. Though God’s transcendence is maintained, Allah is a “Singularity,” existing in undifferentiated Unity. This notion is ultimately meaningless, since there must be distinctions for sense to occur. Any power that Allah has must derive from the power/force of Nature, thus of unrelieved, impersonal materialism. Indeed, Islam considers the words “Father” and “Son” as unworthy notions to be applied to God. Islam denies the very notion of the Trinity–which, as we shall see, is the essence of Christmas. An impersonal Allah and a flawed founder, Mohammed (who was cruel to his enemies and consummated a marriage with a nine-year-old girl) are not the stuff of which Christmas is made! Indeed, for Muslims, Christmas is an unspeakable heresy.

Rabbinic Judaism

Though God revealed himself first to the Jews and gave them many prophesies about his arrival as the man of heaven, most present-day Jews do not celebrate Christmas. The Jews of Jesus’ time did not realize that his presence at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) demonstrated his unity with the Father and the Spirit, underlining the Trinity, not a Singularity. The Jews were only interested in finding a militant political “messiah” who could defeat the Romans as the Maccabees had defeated the Greeks. There is no place for Christ in the story for Jews who have rejected the Messiah. Rabbinic Judaism, like Islam, rejects the Trinity and cannot, therefore allow for God giving himself in sacrifice for his people.

Pagan, Oneist Religions

Pagan religions, such as native animism and eastern Hinduism, have no place for Christmas. In a shopping extravaganza comparable to the Western Christmas season, gold jewelry, fine clothing, sweet treats and household goods fly off racks in marketplaces across India in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrating the coming of spiritual knowledge. But in a system of ultimate oneness, there can be no truly special time or event. There is no special coming of Christ, the unique Savior because we are all “christs.” We save ourselves, as the famous Hindu text says: “When you hear about the Self, meditate upon the Self, and finally realize the Self…you come to understand everything in life.”[2]

Interfaith proponents want to use Christmas to celebrate a mishmash of great sages–Jesus, Socrates, the Hebrew prophets, Asian masters, and famous gurus or shamans from Mayan, Sikh and Rastafarian traditions. But joining all the religions and their feasts eliminates any notion of a special feast for a unique Savior.

Christmas is unique to Christianity because only Christianity has a Twoist God who can be both transcendent and genuinely personal at the same time. The condescension of God in reaching out in love to his creatures establishes a model for selfless human love. All this depends upon the notion of God as Trinity.

The doctrine of the Triune God shows that personal relations did not start when God created the world. God’s “personness” does not depend on us. God Himself is eternally related in the highest possible way–in a way that infinitely transcends the relationships between humans, who are the most highly organized and inter-related beings on earth. The creation of a world of relations is simply a reflection of the essentially relational nature of God himself as Trinity. Relatedness is the very soul of God. So also is emotion. Thus the conscience, heart, and moral needs of human beings cry out for a God who stands not coldly aloof, but who leans in on us with feeling.

The ultimate Christmas gift is the unimaginable idea of God giving himself. Paul, almost out of words, says: “What then shall we say to these things?” But the inspired apostle knows what to say. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He knows that this is the most amazing gift imaginable. You can imagine his hand quivering as he writes: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32).

God not only graciously created the world, but entered into a relationship with it, and especially with human beings, who bear his image. He made himself accessible to them by coming as a human baby, growing up in a family, expressing reactions, emotions and cogent thoughts in a language. He gave himself in humility and love, dying to pay for our sin and rising to show his power over death–all so that we could discover the renewed relationship he has planned for us. All of this is no new thing, since God was simply expressing His nature in time as He expresses it eternally in his being as Trinity.

This love relationship with the creation is at the heart of the Twoist Gospel as it is seen especially by the incarnation–God come in flesh to rescue and renew us. This is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. Little wonder Muslims, in Berlin and many other places, are turning to Christ by the thousands!

Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism. This article is used with permission.

[1] Interview with Christian Concern, UK (7/29/16).

[2] Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5