Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Marawi is a white wine produced by Recanati Winery in Israel. According to The New York Times, it is "crisp" and "acidic." It is also aged 1,800 years, in a manner of speaking.
Israeli researchers are using DNA testing and archaeological research to identify grape seeds indigenous to their region. They found a reference in the Babylonian Talmud that helped them narrow their work further. Now they have created a wine they believe was in use around AD 220. They plan to continue working until they have produced wines that Jesus and King David would have used.
In a season when we justifiably decry the commercialism of Christmas, it is important to show our culture that Jesus is real and relevant today. Rediscovering his first-century world is helpful. Relating him to our world is essential.
Unfortunately, rebuking culture or withdrawing into Christian enclaves seem to be the most popular options today. Let's consider a third approach.
There was a time when Christians embraced cultural engagement. In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat reminds us that Roman Catholic bishop Fulton Sheen once hosted a prime-time television show on faith and culture. He was seen by 30 million people and won an Emmy in 1952. Billy Graham's crusades made national headlines and received prime-time coverage.
Douthat notes that the civil rights movement was birthed in and supported by churches across the land. He cites President Eisenhower's famous remark that our democracy depends on "a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is." Douthat concludes: "American Christianity at midcentury offered believers a relatively secure position from which to engage with society as a whole."
That was then, this is now. Postmodernism convinced our culture that all truth is relative and subjective. The sexual revolution convinced society that biblical ethics are outdated and irrelevant. Vietnam and Watergate convinced many that all authority should be challenged, including that of the Church. Our culture began separating religion from the "real world," and we haven't stopped.
How should we respond? Let's take our cue from Christmas.
Jesus left his perfect paradise for our fallen planet. He exchanged his seat at the right hand of the Father for a feed trough in a cow stall. He gave up the worship of heaven for the wonder of field hands. He came to us so we could come to him.
Now he calls us to do the same: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:16). So seek to "bear fruit" for your Master in all you do this day and this season. Ask God to give you insight for those you influence and wisdom as you share his word in yours. Look for opportunities to make Jesus real through your words and actions. For more, see my Using Christmas for Christ.
But make sure you spend enough time with the Christ of Christmas to manifest his character to others. Billy Graham observed, "To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees."
Drink the "new wine" Jesus provides (Matthew 9:17), and share it with all who thirst for God. That's everyone you know.
Publication date: December 1, 2015
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