Every year we celebrate Christmas. But every year people do not really benefit from the Christmas celebrations. Christmas comes and goes and it does not seem to make any difference to our lives.
Often it’s because people treat the story of the birth of Jesus Christ in the same way we treat the story of Santa Claus or the tooth-fairy. We treat them as stories we tell our children to delight and entertain them.
In the same way, people enjoy telling children the familiar story of the wise men and the shepherds and the baby in the manger. They enjoy telling the story and hearing it themselves, but they don’t believe that these things are true.
Then there are others who believe that these things are true and that Jesus really was born in Bethlehem all those years ago. However, while they believe it’s true, their response is: ‘So what?’
Such people don’t doubt that he was born. But what they doubt is the significance of his birth. After all, thousands of children are born around the world every day. Many of them, like Jesus, are born in unusual circumstances.
So, they wonder, what’s different about the birth of Jesus? Like everyone else he was born, he lived, and then he died. What makes his birth different from any other birth?
This is why many people don’t benefit from the Christmas celebrations: they don’t understand how the birth of Jesus was different.
But here’s the difference: he is the only person who was born, who lived, who died, and who was raised from the grave. Like everyone else, he went from the cradle to the grave. However, unlike everyone else, he was raised from the grave and he now lives forever.
Without the resurrection from the grave, his birth would be the same as any other birth. Like everyone else, his story would be the story of someone who was born and who later died.
However, Jesus was raised from the dead. And so, his is the story of someone who — unlike everyone else — was born, and who lived, and who died, but who was raised from the dead to live forever.
Furthermore, what happened to him is able to transform what will happen to you. Like him, you were born. Like him, you too will die. And whoever believes in him will, like him, be raised from the dead.
Once we believe this about Jesus, then we can really celebrate Christmas, because his coming into the world means the end of sorrow and death for those who believe in him. And whoever believes is filled with the hope of everlasting life in the glory to come.
(Inspired by C. Van Til, ‘The Cradle and the Grave’.)