I have made a strange discovery this Advent season. I can hear more Christmas music on NPR that I can on many Christian radio stations with a lot less talk. Perhaps, I shouldn’t judge, but it is frustrating to turn on the radio hoping to hear music that praises God and instead hear endless banter and people calling to share about the worse gift they ever got for Christmas or some other mundane topic. When that happens, I just move down the dial, if that is what it is still called, to an NPR station and hear classical renditions of some beautiful Christmas music.
It is not that NPR doesn’t have talk between the songs as well, but at least it isn’t about getting a head massager. And here is what listening to NPR during the Christmas season confirms as I hear the songs and the stories that people have who conduct, compose arrangements and perform the songs. People like the idea of Christmas in the distorted sense they have understood it. They like this whole idea of a child being a source of hope and of peace and good will. They just miss some key words.
The angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14)
The song implies that there are people whom God favors and people whom He doesn’t favor. And that favor is based not upon our having warm, fuzzy feelings around a manger scene. It is about the work that the child in the manger did as a grown man upon the Cross. Our peace depends upon His grace, His favor resting upon us.
Yet, the view of Jesus on the cross doesn’t bring about feelings that a warm fire, a glass of hot cocoa and The Little Drummer Boy playing in the background can. What for many believers is a demonstration of God so loving the world is the most offensive thing to others. What stirs our hearts with wonder at God’s grace stirs others with disgust. They call it cosmic child abuse and human sacrifice to appease an angry God ignoring the fact that it was God incarnate sacrificing Himself for us. It is offensive because it reminds us of how horrible our sin really is. It reminds us that God’s love is a result of grace and not something to which we are entitled. It reminds us that we cannot save ourselves, but that we need a Savior.