President Donald Trump represents a night and day difference from Barack Obama. This week, Trump gave a Christmas statement that explicitly mentioned God and Jesus Christ — while in 2015 Obama left Jesus out of a statement about the meaning of Christmas. Even so, Trump’s statement revealed his complete misunderstanding of the Christian faith and the real meaning of Christmas.
“The Christmas Story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son and the most extraordinary gift of all — the gift of God’s love for all humanity,” Trump said. “Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredible life forever changed the course of human history.”
“Each and every year at Christmas time, we recognize that the real spirit of Christmas is not what we have, it’s about who we are — each one of us is a child of God,” the president added. “That is the true source of joy this time of the year. That is what makes every Christmas merry.”
On its face, this statement seems very positive for biblical Christians in America. After all, Trump unequivocally said Jesus Christ “changed the course of human history.” This is an understatement — not just because Christians believe Jesus reconciled sinners to God, but because His resurrection inspired many elements of modern prosperity: science, hospitals, organized charities, free markets, limited government, the abolition of slavery, and more.
Even so, Trump made two tragically inaccurate statements that seriously damage the real meaning of Christmas, according to the Bible. Indeed, these statements could be seen as a rejection of the gospel message at the center of the Christian faith.
First, Trump mischaracterized the Holy Family (Jesus, His mother Mary, and her husband Joseph). The president said the Christmas story involves “a mother, a father, [and] their baby son.”
The biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth present his mother Mary as a virgin when she gives birth in Bethlehem. How could a virgin give birth? The archangel Gabriel answered this very question in speaking to the virgin Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
John 1 identifies Jesus Christ as the Logos, a Greek word meaning “word,” “idea,” “expression.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” reads John 1:1. The miracle of Christmas is that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus is not the son of Joseph and Mary, He is the Son of God and Mary. This is the very center, the full meaning of Christmas. In Jesus, the eternal God who created the entire universe out of nothing became part of that universe, taking on the dirtiness, pain, and limitations of flesh in order to reconcile sinful people to God. This itself is a miracle, known as the “Incarnation.”
By calling Joseph “a father” and Jesus “their baby son,” Trump seemed to suggest that Jesus is not the Son of God. (Mary is, of course, Jesus’ full mother.)
Trump’s second statement proved both more problematic and more revealing, however. The president said, “each one of us is a child of God. that is the true source of joy this time of year. That is what makes every Christmas merry.”
When some people say we are children of God, they mean humans are made in the image of God, and this is a clear Christian teaching (Genesis 1:27). Being a child of God means a great deal more than being made in the image of God, however. A child doesn’t just look like his father — he shares the same nature as his father. A wax figure may look exactly like a real person, but it is still made of wax.
When Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God, the first century religious leaders decided to put him to death. He wasn’t just claiming to be like God in some ways, He was claiming to be God Himself. The Hebrew God is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent, and more. No human could be these things.
There is one key way in which Trump came near to the truth in saying humans can be children of God, however. John 1:12 says that those who do receive Jesus — those who believe in His name — receive “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Jesus said that in order to be saved, sinful human beings must be “born again” (John 3:3). Believing in Jesus doesn’t just involve saying some words — it is a fundamental transformation from being children of the devil to becoming children of God.
When Jews who sought to kill Jesus said, “we have one Father — even God,” Jesus responded, “If God were your Father, you would love me” (John 8:41-42). “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44).
According to Christian teaching, “all have fallen short of the glory of God,” and they must repent to be reconciled to God (Romans 3:23). God is the source of all joy, but human beings are born with the inclination to disobey and dishonor Him, and this is why humans are responsible for theft, oppression, murder, and sexual assault, among other things.
The good news of Christmas is that God has made repentance and reconciliation possible. This is good news because humans are desperately in need of these things.
Not everyone is a child of God. If they were, the Incarnation would be unnecessary. Jesus is the only true Son of God, but He gave us a way to become God’s adopted children. That requires repentance and faith, and amounts to a new birth — a total transformation of our personality.
Trump may have said “each one of us is a child of God” more to be inclusive as the President of the United States. It is possible, however, that Trump really does believe this, and that he does not know the importance of repenting before God.
In July 2015, Trump said, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.” He added, “When I go to church and when I drink my little wine and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of forgiveness.”
Later, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I try not to make mistakes where I have to ask forgiveness.” Trump said, “I think repenting is terrific,” but asked, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person.”
God does not ask human beings to be “honorable people,” but perfect — as God in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus taught that we should not only follow the Golden Rule (treat other people as we want to be treated), but that we should love our enemies — praying for those who persecute us.
Trump thinks he’s okay, but saints like Mother Teresa said they were great sinners. Saint Paul called himself “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). If Saint Paul and Mother Teresa have to repent, so does Donald Trump.
Jesus taught that unrepentant sinners aren’t “children of God,” but rather children of “your father the devil.”
Christmas is about the eternally righteous God sending His Son to earth — into human flesh, born in a lowly manger — in order to reconcile sinful human beings to Himself. Everyone who repents and believes in Jesus will become a child of God, and this is an incomprehensible miracle. But those who do not repent, and those who do not believe, are not children of God.
Trump may have meant to deliver an inspiring message, but his actual words minimized the true miracle of Christmas, and made it seem like repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are unnecessary for sinful people to become children of God.
Christmas is indeed a time to celebrate, and it is wonderful that even those who do not repent and may not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God still celebrate this holiday. Even so, statements like Donald Trump’s obscure the true meaning of Christmas, and it is important for people to understand this is not what the Bible teaches.
Click “Load More” to see Trump’s Christmas message in front of the National Christmas Tree.