What if Christmas never was?
The significance of Christmas for people today
Is Christmas worth the hassle? It seems to start earlier every year bringing too many crowds, too few parking spaces, too much food and too little money.
There are certainly aspects of Christmas we could do without – the extra food, cards, decorations and presents, for example. But these are not what Christmas is all about. Ask yourself a question – What if Christmas had never happened? Would it make any difference?
Well we would lose the holiday, crowds and the excess food, but apart from that much would be the same – Coronation Street and Neighbours; Manchester United and Arsenal; Brad Pitt and Michael Jackson! We would still get up, eat breakfast and go to work. We would still watch television and go to bed.
Just the same? No, not really. The Bible says that if Christmas had never happened we would all be living by the ‘basic principles of the world’ (Galatians 4:3). What are they? They are our natural inclinations, like:
1. Looking after number one. I’ll love my neighbour as long as there is something in it for me!
2. Doing to others as they do to you. Tit for tat, getting your own back, getting even.
3. Eating, drinking and being merry, for tomorrow we die! This life is all there is, so enjoy it while you can. Epicurus articulated this philosophy 2000 years ago and it still dominates our thinking today!
4. Trying to live a good life and hoping
God (if he exists) will be pleased with your efforts! Oh, yes – even if Christmas had never happened, religion and morality would still thrive!
Hold on a moment
But hold on a moment – Christmas has happened! And what a difference it has made to human civilisation and culture! Many of the good things we enjoy today are the direct result of the birth and teaching of Jesus Christ – such as the foundation of schools, hospitals and charities; the place of women in society; the generally benign and uncorrupt nature of government; and moral ideals second to none.
However, none of these benefits would be ours if the Christian gospel had not changed and motivated individuals to make them happen. And for the Christian message to change us we must first know who Jesus is.
Who is Jesus?
The Bible tells us that God sent his Son Jesus Christ. God became man, but remained God! (John 1:1-3, 14). God is One, yet this awesome being exists in three persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.- distinct in their persons yet sharing the same essence. Not three beings but one!
The Father sent the Son. The Son came willingly – born of the virgin Mary by the action of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Jesus is fully God and fully man. Not a mixture of the two, for then he would be neither one nor the other. He is fully God and fully man – one person with two natures.
Why did he come?
The awesome truth is that Jesus came to ‘buy us back’ (Galatians 4:4). Because of our moral failure (sin) we cannot know God and can only expect judgement for our failure to obey our Creator. ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23).
The penalty for sin is death – spiritual death (which is why we don’t know God); physical death (which is why we die); and eternal death (which is why we fear to die). That’s pretty comprehensive, isn’t it? But Jesus came to deal with the problem of sin and redeem us to God.
Pawnbrokers flourish in hard times. People go to the pawnbroker and ‘pawn’ valuable belongings in exchange for ready cash. The items can be bought back (redeemed) by the original owner if he pays the required price. Otherwise, the item goes into the shop window for sale.
Jesus came to buy us back – to redeem us! The price on the tag is beyond silver or gold. A world could not redeem us, a universe would not pay the price. So who can pay? Certainly not us.
What can we do?
But when Jesus saw the ‘price tag’ he did not balk or turn away – he came into the shop that first Christmas and 30 years later paid the price that first Easter! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid for our sin on a Roman cross outside the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. ‘God made him to be sin for us, him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The price is paid and all who believe it are reconciled to God. To receive this good news is to enter into the wonder of Christmas. But where would we be if Christmas had never happened?