“I like to write books for people who don’t like to read books,” says Max Lucado, a prolific writer and a dynamic minister from Texas. In his new “airplane” book, Because of Bethlehem, he explains why in 2017, it’s more important than ever for every person to know that Christ understands us — “He gets us.”
Because of Bethlehem—what does that title mean to you? The title reflects what I was hoping to accomplish with the book and that is to answer the questions, “How is the world different because of Bethlehem? What happened with the birth of Christ that changed history and impacts you and me?” It’s a book for people who don’t understand Christ’s spiritual significance. I intentionally loaded it with illustrations and happy stories in a scriptural context. And it’s short enough to read on a flight from New York to Chicago.
What lessons did you learn from writing this book? I finally landed on the promise of, because of Bethlehem, God saves us and God gets us. He understands what it’s like to be a human. I don’t think He came to earth to learn what it’s like to be a human. I don’t think He needed to learn anything. But I do think we need to learn that He knows what it’s like. Because, until we understand that He understands, we’ll avoid Him. But if we can understand that He understands what it means to be human, we can have confidence to approach His Throne of Grace.
What are some of the surprising responses you’ve received to this message? Just last night on a news program, an interviewer sincerely asked me, “I’m an agnostic, so help me understand. What is the big deal about Christmas?” And so I explained to him that what’s totally unique to the Christian faith is this idea God would become a human being and live among us and present a plan to save us. I would like to think my answer connected with the interviewer. No other philosophy and no other religion has ever advanced to this idea that says God came as a human being and rose from the dead.
In your book, you describe the arrival of Jesus as a “now moment.” Where are we today on the spiritual timeline? You know, one of the consequences of what we call “postmodernism” in this secularized world is an unawareness of the supernatural and the invisible. We’ve raised a generation of people who are content with the now and have resigned themselves to the notion that there is no life beyond this life. And so, the only way they find joy, is to focus on the now. They say, “enjoy the journey!” I get that. But if the journey doesn’t take you somewhere, it’s kind of hard to find joy in it. I think that’s why people get so distraught.
Contrast that with the Christian view that says “this journey can be pretty rough.” Jesus said, in this world, you’re going to have tribulations. There’s going to be turbulence on your flight, but when you come in for a landing, He promises that it’s going to be beyond anything that you could’ve ever imagined.
We’ve just gone through a rough election and our country is in need of healing—racially, politically, and spiritually. Even within the evangelical community, we wrestle with diverse views on these issues. This year, what are some of the goals we can set as an evangelical community to actually heal? What a great question, because you’re right. The election is still the hot topic on everyone’s mind. When we talk about this, my wife always reminds me of Proverbs 21:1, “The heart of the King is in the hands of the Lord.” That’s a great passage on the sovereignty of God. To study the Bible is to study a sovereign God. He is a God who directed the heart of Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, and Pharaoh. So, He can take any leaders—be they sympathetic to or opposed to Him—and direct them in the way He wants.
I think our job now as Christians is to come together and say, “What unites us is Jesus Christ!” Right now, we can pray, come together around Christ, around the manger, around the Cross, and around Easter!
As Christians, our ultimate challenge is to tell this Bethlehem story to our families, friends, coworkers, and to the people we meet along the way. How should we articulate it? What a good question, because we do want to present it in a way that’s cogent, attractive, and fragrant. It’s such a message of hope. Just this week, I was talking with a man struggling with cancer, and he’s not a believer. I said, “you know, we pray and God understands.” But he said, “I’m not a religious man.” I said, “I don’t care. Jesus wasn’t a popular religious leader either! But He understands.” We must connect with people. And I think this is what they need.
Thank you so very much, Mr. Lucado, for sharing with us your words of wisdom.
by Warren L. Maye