According to the results of a poll published this week, two in five millennials in the UK do not know that the baby in the Nativity story is Jesus, and more than a third do not know who Mary and Joseph were. The poll of 2,000 Britons aged between 21 and 38 – often referred to as the “Snowflake Generation” – was commissioned by the booking website Hotels.com.
Half of those questioned did not know the angel Gabriel told Mary she was going to give birth to Jesus and fewer than 10% could name gold, frankincense and myrrh as the gifts brought by wise men. Fifteen percent wanted the wise men replaced by wise women and 10% said the donkey should be a unicorn. And a rather worrying 6% thought Santa Claus was somehow involved in the Nativity!
This is not at all surprising. We have relegated Christmas to a cultural celebration of mythical events and blended it with some yuletide traditions, so it does not really matter what you know and remember; it is all about the experience. One tradition can be ditched and replaced with another. Things can change.
But if what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus and what this event means is actually true then knowing the facts clearly and portraying them accurately is supremely important.
Rather than being a discouragement for Christians, we should see such widespread ignorance as an opportunity and a call to evangelism.
We have a big job to do in bringing light into dark places – explaining the truth and significance of Christmas and Easter (and everything in between). But that has always been the mission of the church: to make disciples and teach them.
But in many cases in my experience there is an openness amongst millennials to this message. Because they have so little knowledge of the Christian faith they also do not have the preconceptions and inbuilt prejudice that many others do; it is almost a clean canvas to work with.
It may not be a white Christmas but let us get out amongst the snowflakes and spread the good news that the Saviour has come.