Christmas would have no meaning if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross for us and then proved that he is God by rising again three days later on Easter Sunday. (24)
Perhaps I’m the only man of my generation who hasn’t read The Purpose-Driven Life, or perhaps not. Nevertheless, this is the first book I’ve read by Pastor Rick Warren, and I did so for the sake of the holiday season. In fact, I approached this book with one simple goal: to find something unique to share at a Church Christmas party I’m hosting later this week, something I’ve either never shared or never heard shared before. Praise God, Warren pulled through and gave me some great food for thought (and even garnished it with an “agenda” to boot!), so I’m pretty happy.
The Purpose of Christmas is, unsurprisingly, an evangelistic tract aimed at convincing a lost and searching soul of his or her need for the Savior, Christ the Lord. Warren packages the Gospel in the form of “the greatest gift” God could offer, His Son. At Christmastime, he’d like us to focus on three particular things: celebration, salvation, and reconciliation. By the end, he closes the deal by offering a suggested prayer that confesses sin, acknowledges Jesus as God who died for that sin, and asks Him to become the Lord of one’s life.
As a tract, it hits all the right points, but—and maybe I’m just not mainstream American enough—it just all seemed so “canned,” as if often rehearsed before a panel of an American cross-section for maximum effectiveness and minimum offense. Rick Warren falls in line with such evangelistic preachers as Billy Graham, men who maintain the fundamental doctrines of Scripture, yet who also unapologetically appeal to a much broader audience than simply those who agree with them, because they’re so non-controversial. While this seems like a good and reasonable goal to have for anyone seeking to share the Truth with a wide audience, it also seems to evidence a gaping hole in “Truth,” for when a person stands unchallenged simply because he refuses to challenge others, then whatever stand for “Truth” he makes is far less a stand than a mere lounging suggestion.
Part of the reason I feel this way about his writing and approach is Warren’s constant use of one-liners that seem perhaps tried-and-true in a spoken message, but come across as cheap attempts at smoothness on paper. There were far too many to record here, but the one I underlined as I realized it was: “God is not mad at you. He is mad about you!” (10) Perhaps that appeals to the brainless social-network addict, but it’s just not my style.
The more I moved through the book, I also realized that he didn’t really talk all that much about Christmas, though he spoke at length about Jesus and the world’s need of Him. This of course maintains “The Purpose of Christmas” and is the essential tenet of our faith, so more power to him! It hadn’t yet, however, brought to my mind anything specific I could share with my church friends at our Christmas gathering this week. But then it came, at the tail end of the book when Warren reminded his readers of something he had earlier written in passing:
HOLD A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR JESUS THIS CHRISTMAS AGENDA
❖ Sing some Christmas carols.
❖ Read the Christmas story from the Bible, Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12.
❖ Each person shares answers to two questions:
1. What am I thankful to God for this year?
2. What am I going to give Jesus for his birthday?
❖ Close by praying for one another. (4)
Now I’ve never asked these questions, and I’ve never before heard these questions asked, so this recommendation hit my required criteria. And even at this moment, I can’t think of precisely what I’d like to give Jesus for His birthday—though I’m still thinking! Warren says that this has been a tradition in his family now for four generation, and I can see why. Boy, am I satisfied with the quality idea I got as a reward from reading Warren’s little book!
I’d recommend this short guy as a Gospel-tract stocking-stuffer, or as something to leave lying around your corporate bathroom stalls this holiday season. One never knows how such small books as this (or Done by Cary Schmidt) can affect the eternal state of a searching soul. I pray that God will bless it this season especially.