Subject: Christmas: The time we celebrate the history of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ
Luke 1:3-4 “It seemed good to me, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write an orderly account… that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”
In the 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp case, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the school district’s practice of morning Bible devotions before classes, followed by a recital by all students of the Lord’s prayer, violated the Constitution. The Court recognized that the school district was promoting one religion over all others, which violated the commitment that states must maintain ‘neutrality’ in order to protect the religious freedom of students of all faiths.
But the Supreme Court never intended to unleash a public battle over the right to have prayer in schools.
They actually promoted the teaching of objective history of religion! Listen to Justice Tom Clark’s remarks in this case: “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization … Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
We should all want our children to understand the history of the Bible’s role in the formation of the American way of life. And, as an example, we should want to teach our children about Islam, instead of them getting their information from the internet and social media. If we want our teens to be properly educated, shouldn’t we teach the history of all religions in our schools?
The Supreme Court ruling in 1963 actually opens the door for introducing our teenagers to the Bible as a valuable book for studying history. And it is not difficult to demonstrate to our teenagers that much of the history of the ancient world, which informs the understanding of our world today, has its origins in the Bible.
Our verse this week demonstrates this very point. In the first verses of the Gospel of Luke, the author (after whom the Gospel is named, and who also is the author of the Book of Acts) informs us that he is recording events to ensure we will have “perfect understanding of all things” and will “know with certainty” the things that have been taught to us. In other words, the pages to follow in the Gospel of Luke are not meant to be treated as an exercise in religious devotion. They are actual recorded history of events from the past.
Luke was a physician by trade and one of the trusted traveling companions of the apostle Paul. Over the centuries, he has been recognized by scholars as a first-rate historian and our only source for an account of travels in ancient Asia Minor. The most notable scholar who spent his adult life investigating Luke’s writings was Sir William Ramsay, the first Professor of Classical Archaeology at Oxford University and holder of 9 honorary doctorates. He is regarded as the leading authority on the history of Asia Minor. In his 1895 lectures at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities, Ramsey shared this about Luke and his writing: ‘Our hypothesis is that Acts was written by a great historian, a writer who set himself to record the facts as they occurred… The author of Acts is not to be regarded as the author of historical romance, legend, or third or second-rate history. Rather he is the writer of an historical work of the highest order…’
Since Luke writes accurate history of events that took place in the ancient world, why are we not teaching them in public schools? Maybe because of what Luke records in Luke 2:8-14, right after his opening statement: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them: and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’”
Are we to select only certain parts of Luke as historical? Or, as Professor Ramsey declares, all of Luke’s work merits treatment as highest-rated history? If the public schools acknowledged Ramsay’s citation, our teenagers would be exposed to the historical event of the birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior of mankind. Regardless if you believe what Luke has written, is it better in America today to remain ‘neutral’, as the Supreme Court says, rather than to teach true history? God help us and our future generations.