The following quotes caught my attention as I read Tim Keller’s excellent new book, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ (Viking, 2016) [interview]. Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.


“He is a Light for us when all other lights go out.” (15)

“Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.” (20)

“The gospel, because it is a true story, means all the best stories will be proved, in the ultimate sense, true.” (28)

“You cannot judge God by your calendar. God may appear to be slow, but he never forgets his promises. He may seem to be working very slowly or even to be forgetting his promises, but when his promises come true (and they will come true), they always burst the banks of what you imagined. . . . God’s grace virtually never operates on our time frame, on a schedule we consider reasonable.” (35)

“Everything in the Hebrew worldview militated against the idea that a human being could be God. Jews would not even pronounce the name ‘Yahweh’ nor spell it. And yet Jesus Christ—by his life, by his claims, and by his resurrection—convinced his closest Jewish followers that he was not just a prophet telling them how to find God, but God himself come to find us.” (42–43)

“[Christmas] means not just hope for the world, despite all its unending problems, but hope for you and me, despite all our unending failings.” (46–47)

“A God who was only holy would not have come down to us in Jesus Christ. He would have simply demanded that we pull ourselves together, that we be moral and holy enough to merit a relationship with him. A deity that was an ‘all‐accepting God of love’ would not have needed to come to Earth either. This God of the modern imagination would have just overlooked sin and evil and embraced us. Neither the God of moralism nor the God of relativism would have bothered with Christmas.” (47)

“The message is ‘If Jesus Christ comes into your life, you are going to kiss your stellar reputation goodbye.’ And this is just Matthew 1. When we get to Matthew 2, Joseph will see that having Jesus in his life means not just damage to his social standing but also danger to his very life. What is the application to us? If you want Jesus in your life, it is going to take bravery.” (56)

“When you come to Christ, you must drop your conditions. You have to give up the right to say, ‘I will obey you if . . . I will do this if . . .’ As soon as you say, ‘I will obey you if,’ that is not obedience at all. You are saying: ‘You are my adviser, not my Lord. I will be happy to take your recommendations. And I might even do some of them.’ No. If you want Jesus with you, you have to give up the right to self‐determination. Self‐denial is an act of rebellion against our late‐modern culture of self‐assertion. But that is what we are called to. Nothing less.” (58)

“If you think it takes courage to be with [Jesus], consider that it took infinitely more courage for him to be with you. Only Christianity says one of the attributes of God is courage. No other religion has a God who needed courage.” (61)

“In religion we try to tame God, seeking to put him in our debt; we do many things so he has to bless us in the ways we want. . . . Religious people are just as hostile to the sovereignty of God as the irreligious. They just find religious ways to express it and hide it.” (70–71) 

“‘Where’s the true King?’ That question is the most disturbing question possible to a human heart, since we want at all costs to remain on the throne of our own lives. We may use religion to stay on that throne, trying to put God in the position of having to do our bidding because we are so righteous, rather than serving him unconditionally. Or we may flee from religion, become atheists, and loudly claim that there is no God. Either way, we are expressing our natural hostility to the lordship of the true King.” (71)

“No one is really neutral about whether Christmas is true. If the Son of God was really born in a manger, then we have lost the right to be in charge of our lives. Who can be objective about a claim that, if it is true, means you’ve lost control of your life? You can’t be.” (72)

“Over and over again God says, ‘I will choose Nazareth, not Jerusalem. I will choose the girl nobody wants. I will choose the boy everybody has forgotten.’” (76)

“You and I have been trained by our culture to not believe in the supernatural. As we saw earlier, as a Jewish woman, Mary had been trained by her culture to not believe that God could ever become a human being. So, though they are different, the barriers she faced against belief in the Christmas message were every bit as big as the barriers you may be facing. And yet a combination of evidence and experience shattered those barriers and she came to faith. That is exactly the way it works now. She doubted, she questioned, she used her reason, and she asked questions—just as we must today if we are going to have faith.” (82)

“Christian faith is not a negotiation but a surrender. . . . [And] our greatest motive for surrendering to him cannot be for what he will do in us. It must be to love him for what he did for us.” (93–94, 98)

“Christmas means that, through the grace of God and the incarnation, peace with God is available; and if you make peace with God, then you can go out and make peace with everybody else. And the more people who embrace the gospel and do that, the better off the world is. Christmas, therefore, means the increase of peace—both with God and between people—across the face of the world.” (111)

“The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.” (119)

“When you say, ‘Doctrine doesn’t matter; what matters is that you live a good life,’ that is a doctrine. It is called the doctrine of salvation by your works rather than by grace. It assumes that you are not so bad that you need a Savior, that you are not so weak that you can’t pull yourself together and live as you should. You are actually espousing a whole set of doctrines about the nature of God, humanity, and sin. And the message of Christmas is that they are all wrong.” (131)

“If Christmas is just a nice legend, in a sense you are on your own. But if Christmas is true, then you can be saved by grace.” (133)


Previously in the “20 Quotes” series: