God through the prophet Amos reminded Israel of the great privilege they enjoyed as God’s chosen people. He said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) It all started with their forefather Abraham and was later confirmed at Mount Sinai. God said to them, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” (Exodus 19:5) What a privilege to be God’s special people!
But with privilege comes responsibility. It was expected of Israel that they obey the voice of God and keep his covenant. But they did not. And so the rest of the statement from Amos was a pronouncement of punishment: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)
Today we Christians are God’s special people. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” (1 Peter 2:9) But let us not forget that with privilege comes responsibility—responsibility to love and obey God.
There are so things that we know about the birth of Jesus; there are also some things that we definitely do not know. All we really know for sure is what we find in the Bible. We know, for example, that Jesus was born of the virgin, Mary. (Matthew 1:22-23; Luke 1:34-35) But we know nothing of the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption or Veneration of the virgin Mary. The Bible says nothing about these; they are all human traditions with no basis in fact.
We know that Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus. (Luke 2:1ff) But we do not know the date of His birth. December 25 is merely a human tradition and not found in the Bible. Nor do we know of any special day for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. No such holy day can be found in the Bible.
While it is fine to enjoy a festive season, we should not be misled into thinking that God authorized a certain day for a special celebration of the birth of Christ.
The way in which God revealed himself in the past is not the same as the way He does today. The Scriptures say: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2a) So, in the past, God spoke to men in a variety of ways – sometimes in a dream, sometimes in a vision, sometimes through an angel, etc. But not so now, because now all of God’s revelation to man comes through His Son Jesus Christ. So if you want to know God’s will for your life, don’t expect it in a dream or vision – don’t expect an angel to appear. Today all revelation from God comes through the Son.
But Jesus has not appeared and spoken to each one of us personally, so how can we know God’s will and the way of salvation? Again, the Scriptures tell us. In the very next chapter of the Book of Hebrews we read: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Hebrews 2:3)
Jesus selected certain men to be His apostles and prophets and commissioned them to be His official spokesmen. They are the ones whom he appointed to convey the message of salvation to us. And we have their words in our New Testament. So do not expect God to speak to you in a dream or vision; do not expect an angel from heaven to bring his message to you. In fact, do not even expect to get a direct word from Jesus himself. Rather, read the New Testament. It is the medium which God and Christ have chosen to reveal the way of salvation to us.
It has become quite common to refer to America as a secular nation. And it’s true – more and more our country is becoming secular. “In God We Trust” may still be on our coins, but in fewer and fewer hearts of our people. But it is a serious historical error when writers attribute our liberty and democratic form of government to our being a secular nation. Such is definitely not the case. The fact is that the liberties which we enjoy today are the outgrowth of the religious convictions of our forefathers. Our modern secular society is merely the inheritor of the freedoms founded upon religious convictions.
This fact is evident from the foundation document of our national liberty: The Declaration of Independence. This historic document, penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by fifty-six patriots, referenced the Creator as the foundation upon which our liberty is based: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation, emphasized the importance of religion to the security and general welfare of the nation. He said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
As a people may we never forget the Psalmist’s maxim: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12) Nor should we forget the wise man’s words: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)