What if there were no Christmas?
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One way you know that the Christmas season is starting is by the continuous showing of the holiday movie classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. You probably know the story by heart. Stewart plays George Bailey, a man who has experienced a catastrophe at work. Disheartened by his circumstances, he curses the day he was born and decides to take his own life.
An angel named Clarence rescues him and shows him what the world would have been like had he never been born. Through the experience, Stewart’s character sees the value and impact of his life on so many others. And he gained a whole new perspective about living.
So just imagine, what the world would be like if Christ had remained in heaven and not crossed the gulf of eternity into time and space? What if there were no Christmas, no coming of Christ into the world?
First, our calendars would look different. It’s about to be 2022. Two thousand and twenty-two years – since what? Since Christ’s birth. Maybe we don’t think about it often enough, but our sense of time and our entire understanding of history revolves around the birth of a little baby in an out-of-the-way place called Bethlehem.
Before Christ came, cultures marked time by their reigning dynasties. This led to a bewildering hodgepodge of calendars that historians are still untangling. But now, every historical event that has ever taken place, every human achievement by the world’s leading lights and greatest empires – all of them are measured by how long before or after Christ’s birth they occurred.
If Christ had never come, our nation as we know it would not exist.
If Christ had never come, our nation as we know it would not exist. America was founded on the idea that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This singular truth led to the end of slavery and fueled the civil rights movement.
Before Christ came, there was no widespread belief in the inherent dignity and equality of each person. No pre-Christian political body ever had anything like the 14th Amendment, which gives every single person the full and equal protection of the law. Our modern sense of justice would simply be unimaginable apart from the birth and life and teachings of Jesus.
If Christ had not come, the daily lives of most people would look drastically different. Nearly every institution that enriches our lives, from charities to hospitals to universities, was founded by Christians who were responding to what happened at Christ’s advent.
You cannot explain history’s most influential art and music, or literature and philosophy, without reference to Jesus. Without Christmas there would be no Sistine Chapel or Notre Dame Cathedral. No Bach or Beethoven. No Dante or Dostoevsky. No Augustine or Anselm. They all go back to the little baby in the manger in Bethlehem – there is simply no way around it.
The reason Christ’s coming elicited such a remarkable upheaval in politics and culture and history is because of what it means for people like you and me. The One who made us chose to become one of us. Dorothy Sayers said it this way: “He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death.”
The good news of Christianity culminates on Easter at an empty tomb in Jerusalem, but it begins on Christmas at an animal feeding trough in Bethlehem. No Christmas, no Easter; no Easter, no forgiveness and no hope for sinners like us.
Christmas is the annual reminder of the wonderful fact that we don’t ever have to live in an alternate, no-Christmas reality. Because Christ did come, we have a Bible in which every prophecy has been fulfilled, we have a Savior who has paid the penalty for our sin, we have a sympathetic friend in heaven who empathizes with our difficulties, and we have a hope waiting for us beyond the grave.
As the angel announced to the shepherds on a Judean hillside 2,000 years ago, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Thank God there is a Christmas!
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