Contrary to the hymn, it was not a silent night some time about 2,000 years ago. A young lady in Bethlehem gave birth to a baby in a stable. The narrative proceeded in the manner in which one would tell a story if one did not wish for the story to be taken seriously.
The initial witnesses were shepherds, guys whose evidence was deemed unacceptable in court due to their unreliability. Women were key eyewitnesses, who were also viewed as untrustworthy. The child's father was omitted from the historical record. The baby's whole earthly bloodline would eventually be exterminated by Roman imperial armies. His brothers and sisters, as well as their children, were all slaughtered, according to historical archives. James and Jude, two of his brothers, would compose works that would become part of the New Testament canon. These same brothers, ironically, abandoned their older brother in life, refusing even to attend his execution to console their mother. Then they rose to prominence in the early Christian Church, professing their brother to be Yahweh.
While you, like me, probably grew up believing Christians co-opted a Roman festival to commemorate Christ's birth, there is plenty of current archeological evidence to show Emperor Aurelian aligned Sol Invictus on December 25th to stifle the spread of an irascible atheist sect. The faster the religion developed, the more Christians were slain – the pruning strengthened the faith. Because they professed to worship a living God, Christians were labeled as atheists. To become a deity, someone had to die, as all right-thinking religious people in Rome knew. As a result, Christians were regarded as atheists, while atheists were regarded as enemies of mankind. They were simply unstoppable.
Christianity flourished and came to control Rome. It quickly spread around the globe. For a long time, the expansion of Christianity in Asia was gradual. However, just as Christianity took over 1,000 years to spread from Europe and Africa to the Americas, it took another thousand years to fully reach Asia. Now, it is thought that there are more Christians quietly living their religion in China than there are in the United States. It is a completely distinct religion based on a man rather than a location. Mecca is a holy place for Muslims. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Badrinath is a Hindu deity. Christ is the Christian's possession. He floats across space, unconstrained by geography and wreaking havoc on civilisation. The Pope was dreaded by the communists. The silent Christian is feared by the Chinese.
Christianity dies when it is co-opted by the rest of the world. All Christian denominations that deny biblical sexual ethics and the veracity of Christ's bodily resurrection are in decline. Statistically, the last Episcopalian has already been born in the United States, depending on the pace of decrease. Other mainline progressive denominations aren't far behind. Liberal theology has become a doorway to atheism, providing a comfortable landing into the world for those who are weak in faith on their path to Judgment Day. Those who stay tend to leave failing churches and contribute to the development of stronger Christian institutions. This is evidenced by the booming conservative Anglican Church in America, which includes refugees from the liberal Episcopal Church. Similarly, young conservative Methodists are abandoning the United Methodist Church's progressive bishops. Instead of man pruning the church through persecution making it stronger, God uses liberal theology to prune the church of heresy.
Christianity is a strange religion. The secular society is always betting against religion. Even while it diminishes in the West, it gets stronger inside existing congregations and extends to underdeveloped nations. It picks up and merges with the religion traditions and cultures of those places from there. It creates a religion that is neither Greek nor Jewish, but rather a complete expression of God in the variety of His people united by a 2,000-year-old orthodoxy.
This vow is the foundation of that orthodoxy. History has come to a close. In Bethlehem, light shone brightly. It is uncontrollable. It is already in the world, influencing it, and will be made more complete and real shortly. Christ has come and will come again. This season's promise is that every tear will be dried and everything will be made fresh. Christmas greetings.