Most of us are very familiar with the 1946 film classic, It's a Wonderful Life, wherein the character played by Jimmy Stewart gets a chance to see what life would be like had he never been born. The main point of this magificent film, directed by Frank Capra, is that each person's life has impact on everybody else's life. Had they never been born there would be a gaping hole left by their absence. That is a truth that most of us have never considered, and at times we might feel that the hole we might leave behind would be quite insignificant. But that is not true! If we live out our calling in Christ it certainly should never be true. But for the moment transfer your thoughts from what if "you" had never been born to what if "Christ" had never been born. Had He never been born we would have never known the enormous impact-more than anybody else-on history in general, and on us individually, in particular. If Jesus Christ had never been born; if there had been no Bethlehem; no Mary and Joseph; no manger; no angels; no shepherds; no wise men; the hole left behind in His absence would have been a veritable "grand canyon" about the size of a continent! Actually we cannot even begin to measure the impact His absence would have had on history (which is really indeed His Story!).
Not everyone is happy about Jesus coming into the world. Friedrich Nietzche, the nineteenth-century atheist philosopher who coined the phrase "God is Dead", likened Christianity to a poison that has infected the entire world. (The Birth of Tradgedy and Genealogy of Morals p.170). Concerning Jesus Christ he said, "he died too early; he would have revoked his doctrine had he reached greater maturity" ( Will Durant The Story of Philosophy. p. 332). Neitzche said that history is the battle between Rome (pagans) and the Israel (Jews and Christians) and he bemoaned the fact that Israel (through Christianity) was winning. He said, "the cross has triumphed over all other, nobler virtues" (Birth of Tradgedy p. 168). Hitler picked up on this and in Mein Kampf blamed the Church for perpetuating the ideas and laws of the Jews. Hitler intended to turn his attention to irradicating the Church after he finished uprooting the Jews. In a private conversation, after Nazi rise to power, he said, "Historically speaking the Christian religion is nothing but a Jewish sect...after the destruction of Judaism,...the extinction of Christians...must follow logically. I shall know the moment when to confront for the sake of the German people, and the world. It is not just a question of Christianity and Judaism. We are fighting against the most ancient curse that humanity has brought upon itself. We are fighting the perversion of our soundest instincts. Ah, the God of the deserts, that crazed, stupid, vengeful Asiatic despot with his powers to make laws!...that poison with which both Jews and Christians have spoiled and soiled the free, wonderful instincts of man and lowered them to the level of doglike fright" (The Ten Commandments: Ten Short Novels of Hitlers War Against the Moral Code p.9). Others shared with Nietzche and Hitler the wish that Christ had never been born-Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Madam Murray O'Hare, and many modern day atheists!
But Jesus Christ was the greatest man that ever lived. Not only did He through His truimph at the Cross, bring salvation to us as a free gift, to all who would receive eternal life, by embracing Him, but his visit to our planet has transformed history. The greatest tradgedy of the Christmas holiday each year is not so much the commercialization (gross as that is), but it is the trivialization of Christmas. People have forgotten, or better yet, failed to grasp the impact Jesus has had on the history of the world. He had a birthday and that birthday utterly altered the way we measure time. Everything He touched He transformed, and through those who have Christ in them, via the Holy Spirit, He has kept on transforming the world. If it wasn't for Jesus we would not have hospitals; Universities; Education of the masses; government and democracy, though championed early by Greek civilization, was developed by devout Christians; the abolition of slavery; most early modern scientists were devout Christians; elevation of Justice; elevation of women; high regard for human life; the veritable definition of self-less sacrificial love; Jesus has transformed art and music; transformed lives from liabilities to assets; not to mention the eternal salvation of countless souls.
Philip Schaff, Church historian has said it best, " He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city, (by today's standards). He never traveled over two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for His only possessions He had on earth, His garments. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed tomb through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the Human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that have ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as THAT ONE SOLITARY LIFE!"
One of the greatest thinkers, philosophers, even considered a genius by the scientific world, was Blaise Pascal. He was a scientist, an inventor, a mathematician, par excellant! When he died, they found sewed in the lining of his coat a piece of parchment that had a cross with rays coming from it. Below was written concerning Jesus Christ-"I have separated myself from Him; I have fled from Him; I have denied Him; crucified Him; Let me never be separated from Him (again)! We keep hold of Him only by ways taught in the Gospel. Renunciation, total and sweet. Total submission to my Jesus Christ...my director. Eternally in joy for a days training on earth. Amen". When you and I die-what will they find sewn in our coats? Let's build a legacy to the "transforming Christ". Philip Brooks, after visiting the stable in Behlehem on Christmas eve, wrote the song, O Little Town of Bethlehem. He included in the lyrics these words, "cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us tonight!" Not a bad prayer and plea for us this Christmas!