What if Christ had never come?
What if Thomas Edison had not pioneered the phonograph? Another inventor would have done so. What if Sir James Young Simpson had not discovered the use of chloroform? Someone else would have introduced anaesthetics. As the Book of Ecclesiastes puts it, ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’.
That cannot be said, however, about Jesus Christ and his achievements. What if he had not been born nearly 2,000 years ago? The answer here has to be different – for the profound reason that he is unique. What he accomplished stands on its own; it was unachievable by any other.
Jesus’ uniqueness is expressed in his words, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ and again, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’. If Jesus Christ had not come into the world, we would not know what God is like.
The New Testament is unequivocal about declaring him to be the visible image of the invisible God, the flawless expression of God’s nature. Jesus said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’.
This makes sense of the testimony of the first Christians – ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’.
John Betjeman’s Christmas Poem expresses the sense of wonder:
And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
Action and consequences
If Jesus Christ had not come, he would not have died on the cross for our sins, and there would be no way back to God for us. One day we must all stand before God’s judgement seat, and give an account of ourselves.
As sinners, we deserve sin’s wages – eternal separation from God. Jesus’ death for sinners is a way of escape that God has provided. It is a way that satisfies both his perfect justice and amazing love. The apostle Peter highlights the essential truth about the purpose of Christ’s death: ‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’.
More must be said. If Jesus Christ had not come he would not have risen again from the dead, showing that death has been conquered for those whose trust is in him. We would never have heard the words spoken at innumerable gravesides – Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’.
What if we ignore the birth of Jesus Christ and what he came to do? The Bible’s answer doesn’t hide the unpalatable truth. Those who ignore Jesus disregard the only one through whom we may come to God, and so choose to be cut off from God and the gift of eternal life.
Jesus said, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’, and the apostle John tells us, ‘he who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life’.
Surprised by joy
The Bible calls us to repent of our sins – and not least of the unbelief that may have marked our lives, and to believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only Saviour. If by God’s grace we do that, we discover the joy of being born into God’s family and of knowing God.
‘To all who received him’, John explains, ‘to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’. Jesus said, ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3).
What then? C. S. Lewis entitled his autobiography Surprised by Joy – in which he describes his experience of coming to faith in Christ. When Jesus becomes our Saviour and Lord, we discover joy – a joy we never knew existed before.
The right response to Christmas is to say with the apostle Paul, ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’