Tim Keller stepped down as the senior pastor at the reknowned Redeemer Church in NYC in early 2017--the church he built into 5000 strong members in one of the most unchurched areas of the United States. Along the way, he’s published an array of books (one of them, Prodigal...
Tim Keller stepped down as the senior pastor at the reknowned Redeemer Church in NYC in early 2017--the church he built into 5000 strong members in one of the most unchurched areas of the United States. Along the way, he’s published an array of books (one of them, Prodigal God, is on my yearly re-reading list) and Hidden Christmas falls in among them.
Hidden Christmas is the product of a lifetime of Keller’s Christmas sermons. This amalgamation covers the breadth of the Christmas story beginning with its roots in the Old Testament, as the Israelites yearned for the freeing savior King promised to them. Whether a believer (in Jesus) or not, a reader will find much of interest in this short read. And I think that’s really the strength of this book: Keller covers so much that there’s bound to be something in it that will give you pause to consider what Jesus’ birth in a manager means.
Personally, I finished Hidden Christmas with a newfound understanding for just how significant it was that God became man (i.e., the incarnation). The Old Testament contains volumes on the just how carefully the people of Israel had to approach even the presence of God in their temple. There are literally pages and pages, in fact, that detail the cloth, the spacing, the colors, the time of day, the season, the sacrifices, the materials, all the prerequisites just for the Israelite priests to commune with God and atone for their people’s sins.
Then God (i.e., Jesus) becomes a baby in a manager. Now all that has to happen for the people of Israel to approach God is to merely COME. Come and adore him...in a manager, as a defenseless baby. That’s changes--that changed everything. We take the ability to talk to, to pray to, to approach God ourselves for granted today and the Christmas story should remind us of how incredible this is.
God has experienced the depth of humanity: despair, death, pain and suffering. He has come alongside us.
We have more info today than Mary did because we know the Gospel story. But her faith was amazing because she accepted her role without knowing the scope and breadth of what her son Jesus would do. She didn’t know then that he would die on a cross, be raised again and save humanity. How much more then should we have faith in His promises.
God/Jesus became man, God laid aside his glory for vulnerability instead. Think to the Old Testament passages and all the precautions Israelites had to take just to approach God in the temple...then boom, Jesus comes and he’s lying there in a manager for all to see (48-9)
The Old Testament lineage and parallels are fairly significant and all point to Jesus’ coming. It’s worthwhile to read this section of the book for how concisely Keller lays it all out (76).
“Such in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which science presents for our belief... That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.” (9)
“Christmas shows [God] knows what you’re going through.” (14)
“Christmas is not “Once upon a time story that happened that shows us how we should live better lives.” No! He broke into the world to save us. Christ the savior is born!” (39)
“Two questions for professing Christians: “First are you willing to obey anything the Bible clearly says to do, whether you like it or not? Second, are you willing to trust God in anything he sends into your life, whether you understand it or not.” (91).
“The [Bible’s] lesson is that the medium is not the message, that we must not ignore uncomfortable truths just because they come through an unimpressive messenger.” (104)
“Thy word is like a deep, deep mine;//and jewels rich are rare//are hidden in its mighty depths//for every searcher there.” (107)
“The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.” (119)