What Difference Does It Make?
Think about this question, “What if there was no Christmas?” I'm not trying to be the Grinch or Ebenezar Scrooge, although "Bah, humbug" has flashed through my mind a couple of times recently. What I mean by that is, “What would we really miss if there was no Christmas holiday season?” Would people really stop visiting family? Would we really never give gifts to one another? Would places like Wal-Mart and Target really close down? Would school last all year round without any breaks? What would we really miss without Christmas?
- We'd miss eggnog and fruit cake
- We'd miss risking life-and-limb on Black Friday
- We'd miss untangling strands of holiday lights
- We'd miss watching It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time
So maybe we really wouldn't miss all that much without all the holiday hoopla we call Christmas. OK, I would miss eggnog… or at least the eggnog shakes McDonald’s has only during this time of the year.
But what about the story behind the holiday? What about the so called “true meaning of Christmas?” OK, I know that Jesus wasn't really born in December 25. I know that the Bible never mentions a special festival of Christ's birth. But what if Jesus had never been born? What if the angels, the magi, the manger and the virgin birth never happened at all? Wouldn't they still make a good story even if they never happened historically? Like George Washington cutting down the cherry tree? Like most of the stuff that gets reposted on Facebook?
For example, there were these philosopher-teachers in the church beginning at the end of the first century who were stressing Christ as spiritual reality, but they denied that He ever came to earth in the flesh. There were really trying to honor Christ with this doctrine-- Christ is too great, majestic and holy to dirty his hands with flesh and blood hands. What difference did it make? John seemed to think in makes a very big difference (2 John 7-8, NCV)
7 Many false teachers are in the world now who do not confess that Jesus Christ came to earth as a human. Anyone who does not confess this is a false teacher and an enemy of Christ. 8 Be careful yourselves that you do not lose everything you have worked for, but that you receive your full reward.
John thinks that without the story of the Jesus coming in the flesh, you don't just lose part of the trappings of the gospel story—you lose everything. He thought that believing that Jesus actually and literally came in the flesh as a human being was the absolute essence of the gospel. That why be began his gospel with a dramatic declaration of the incarnation (John 1:14). That why he begins his first epistle with a different but just as dramatic testimony to Christ’s coming (1 John 1:1-2). That why he sees faith in the incarnation as the basic test of one's orthodoxy (1 Jonn 4:1-3).
What difference does Christmas make? Well it doesn't really make any difference how you choose to celebrate or not celebrate the holiday we call Christmas. But believing the basic story of God coming in the flesh in the person of Jesus? Well, that makes all the difference in the world… and between heaven and hell!