I wrote the following ‘Christmas message’ as a reflection which the Free Church put on its website. I had not anticipated the take up by the press (so far as I aware the Scotsman, Herald, Evening Telegraph and Courier have run with it as a story), nor did I expect such a bitter response (of which more later). Anyway here is the full text of the original message – I will put the press links and some of the responses at the end.
No room in the inn for Jesus
December 23, 2014
Being a good traditional Scot I grew up much preferring New Years Day to Christmas. However people change and now I really do enjoy the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ and to reflect in the mid-winter darkness on the light of the world being incarnated.
It seems to me though a little ironic that, as Scottish society is becoming more secularised, the Church is placing an even bigger emphasis on Christmas and is, to be frank, sounding increasingly desperate. We have gone from looking for people to attend and worship every Sunday, to being thankful that they might even darken our doorstep just once a year. If a dog is for more than Christmas, then how much more Jesus?!
At every nativity, at least with those who actually try to have some semblance of the biblical story, one of the facts that is put across is that ‘there was no room at the inn’ for baby Jesus. It strikes me as a suitable metaphor for how much of Scotland will celebrate his birth this year. Some will have no room for Jesus because they are too busy watching TV, feeding themselves or getting whatever presents they can. The glitz, consumerism and greed leave little place for Jesus. And yet still people struggle to find satisfaction.
Others want to exclude Christ from Christmas in order to be ‘inclusive’. But ‘Winterville’ or ‘seasons greetings’ is not the real problem. No the real problem are the atheists/agnostics who under the guise of ‘secularism’ want to remove all trace of Christianity from society. Of course they get very upset if you say that.
Indeed even today I read on one newspaper website one of the more fundamentalist secularists stating, “Secularism is not about atheism or antitheism, it is about removing religion from public life.” The recent fuss about Jim Murphy’s Catholicism was excused by the Secular Society when they declared “The Scottish Secular Society have no problem with Mr Murphy’s beliefs, but a very great problem with the way in which we fear they will influence his political decisions.”
Thus the militant secularists magnanimously say they will let us have our ‘private’ beliefs and reduce us to the status of a knitting club or Trekkie society, as long as these beliefs don’t actually affect our public actions or lives. They want to remove religion from public life.
This essentially means they want to remove Christians from public life, as we have recently seen with Jim Murphy MP, because no Christian is going to hold to an internalised faith only, which doesn’t affect their outlook in every part of their lives. The secularists will continue these witch hunts until Christ is removed from public life and we end up with a Godless dictatorship. For them there is no room for Christ in the inn of the Brave New World of modern Scotland.
And I fear that perhaps most tragically of all there is no room for Christ in much of the Church. The story is told of a man meeting Jesus sitting outside a church in South Africa during the Apartheid times. “I can’t get in there,” said the black man (it was a whites only church)”. “Neither can I” said Jesus.
It’s a tragedy that much of the church in Scotland seems to regard Jesus as some kind of dead figure from the past who is largely unnecessary except as the ultimate celebrity idol. We ignore his Word, we mock his teachings and we think that we are the Head of the Church. Jesus is reduced to a bit part in his own play. If the Holy Spirit were removed from the church in Scotland today, then 90 per cent of what we do would carry on as if nothing had happened. No room for Jesus in the church.
But there is hope. Christ has not gone away. He is patient not wanting anyone to perish. He still stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears his voice he will come in and feast with them. It’s not too late for us as individuals, for our families, for the church or for our society. We can still seek him, while he may be found. May this be the greatest Christmas for us all – when we come to know the Christ whose ‘time’ it is.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Here is the original article – http://freechurch.org/news/no-room-in-the-inn-for-jesus
And some of the press coverage:
The Scotsman – http://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland/top-stories/no-room-for-jesus-in-scottish-life-1-3643042
Here is an interview with Premier Christian Radio – http://www.premierchristianradio.com/News/UK/Scotland-no-room-for-Jesus-says-Church-Moderator
And this from The Herald – MODERN Scotland has “no room for Jesus”, a leading church figure has claimed amid a continuing war of words with secularists.
In his Christmas address, Rev David Robertson, the Free Church of Scotland’s moderator-elect, paralleled the birth of Jesus with life in present-day Scotland, and said that atheists hiding under the guise of “secularism” were attempting to “remove all traces of Christianity from society”.
But the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) responded, saying the churchman clearly failed to understand what secularism actually means.
Mr Robertson, who takes up the role of Moderator in May, said it was pointless in Christians having faith if it did not affect their motivation in the workplace and the community.
His comments come less than a fortnight after he accused secularists of launching a sectarian attack against Jim Murphy, saying that the MP should not be allowed to become Scottish Labour Party leader because of his Roman Catholic faith.
This was robustly denied by the SSS who said they condemned sectarianism in any form.
But Rev Robertson, minister of Dundee St Peter’s Free Church, has resumed his broadside, saying : “At every nativity one of the facts that is put across is that ‘there was no room at the inn’ for baby Jesus. It strikes me as a suitable metaphor for how much of Scotland will celebrate his birth this year.
“Some will have no room for Jesus because they are too busy watching TV, feeding themselves or getting whatever presents they can.
“Others want to exclude Christ from Christmas in order to be ‘inclusive’. But ‘Winterville’ or ‘seasons greetings’ is not the real problem. No, the real problem are the atheists and agnostics who, under the guise of ‘secularism’, want to remove all trace of Christianity from society.”
The Dundee minister added: “The militant secularists magnanimously say they will let us have our ‘private’ beliefs and reduce us to the status of a knitting club or Trekkie society, as long as these beliefs don’t actually affect our public actions or lives. They want to remove religion from public life.
“The secularists will continue these witch hunts until Christ is removed from public life and we end up with a Godless dictatorship. For them, there is no room for Christ in the inn of the brave new world of modern Scotland.”
But SSS chairman Spencer Fildes responded, saying: “After witnessing the endless attacks on the Scottish Secular Society by David Robertson this year, it’s more than evident that he is failing to understand what secularism actually is.”
He said the SSS would never say that anyone should not hold a public position because of their faith. However, secularists did believe absolutely that faith should a not interfere with their decision-making process.
He added: “We oppose certain issues because they create an unequal society.”
“We have Muslim, Christian, Pagan and many faiths in the SSS; our board has two Christians and a Pagan. Do you truly think they would support what Mr Robertson says we are?”
He said many MSPs abstained from voting where they believed the issue in question was in conflict with their faith which the SSS admired.
“At least they are not using their personal belief as leverage to impose its tenets and doctrines on others,” he said.
The SSS Response – – But what is even more interesting is the bitterness and vitriol from SSS – here are some examples from last night – where their five latest threads were all attacking me and the Free Church! This gives you a flavour of the kind of ‘reasoning’ we have to deal with….
“This man needs help. No, seriously….. He needs help.”
“He is soon to become the Moderator of the Free Church. It’s a car crash waiting to happen.”
“The man seems dangerously obsessed and delusional. Unfortunately, the publicity means some might fall for his nonsense.”
“What an unwise man. Glory in Carstairs!”
“As I always say, never underestimate the power of religion to screw up people’s brains.”
They really are very sweet rational, reasonable people! If they have hated me they will hate you also….this year I have come to understand and realise more than ever the relevance of these words of Jesus. Thankfully he is the Light, he is the Victor….we know the end of the story.