December is finally here, and that means Christmas is not far behind. For most of us, it can’t get here soon enough. After all, it has been twelve long months since we have eaten as much as we will eat during the month of December.
It has been twelve long months since we have gotten emotional exercise stressing over just the right gifts for loved ones and friends, and wrestling over who even warrants being on our gift list. It has been twelve long months since we forced a manufactured smile of delight over a gift that we simply did not like. What’s not to like about Christmas?
Now that these tongue-in-cheek comments about Christmas are out of the way, let me ask a serious question that I pray will frame your Christmas experience this year. Why does Jesus still matter so much today after more than 2000 years since His birth? What is there about Him that causes people all over the world to stop and celebrate His birth every December 25? Why is this one called Jesus, after all these years, still the most celebrated individual who has ever walked the face of the earth?
Is it because the romantic in all of us loves the story of Joseph and Mary making a go of it as husband and wife in spite of the questionable circumstances surrounding her pregnancy? Is it because we love a great drama? What could be greater drama than a peasant husband and his very pregnant wife traveling 90 miles under the duress of the Roman government to pay taxes, only to see their baby born in a stable because there was nowhere for them to stay? What could be greater drama than angels appearing to shepherds, wise men traveling hundreds of miles to visit this peasant child, and Mary and Joseph’s flight with Jesus to Egypt to avoid the attempt on his life by a deranged ruler named Herod? Is it because this child grew up to be such a kind, loving, good, and wise man who was one of the most significant moral teachers and thinkers who has ever lived? Are all these things sufficient to cause men, women, boys, and girls all over the world on December 25 to stop and observe the anniversary of the birth of this one called Jesus?
The simplest answer to that question is no. As important as these elements about Jesus’ life are in our celebration of His birth every year at Christmas, in and of themselves they are not sufficient to explain why this one called Jesus still matters so much today after more than 2000 years. Then how do we answer this very important question?
I would be hard pressed to improve on the answer to that question which is given by Dr. Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Deception: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (HarperOne, 1997, p. 13). He says, “I think we finally have to say that Jesus’ enduring relevance is based on his historically proven ability to speak to, to heal and empower the individual human condition. He matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weakness he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” He then adds, “He comes where we are, and brings us the life we hunger for…To be the light of life, and to deliver God’s life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus….”
This Christmas, while your mind contemplates the manger and the little baby it contained, as you think of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and Herod, don’t forget to dwell on the fact that the reason any of that matters is because of what Jesus is able to do for us today. Because He died on the cross our sins can be forgiven. Because He rose again, we can live forever in heaven once our time on earth is done. And just as significant, once we put our faith in Him, He comes to dwell within us and imparts to us the Holy Spirit, so that the life we live today can have the quality of eternity about it.
And that above all else is what will enable you and me to have a Merry Christmas in 2016.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.