By Pastor John Adams
While nearly all of us know Jesus’ name, fewer know who he really was. Many people assume that Jesus was just a good moral teacher. But if he were merely a good teacher, why would we celebrate his birth in the twenty-first century?
More enemies than friends
Jesus was born in poverty in a backwater corner of a vast Roman Empire. He spent nearly all his life away from the major cities. He wrote no books, though he has been the inspiration for many. His teaching as a Rabbi was far more popular with the common people than with the religious elite. Although Jesus launched a faith with more than one-billion followers today, in his own day he made more enemies than friends.
Without fame or influence
Not one resident of Bethlehem noticed his birth the night he arrived. None of the influential people were even notified, only a few lowly shepherds. Jesus remained unknown to the powerful and influential leaders of his world until after his crucifixion. By every human measure; fame, power, or wealth Jesus seemed utterly unremarkable.
Yet over two thousand years later, much of our world celebrates his birth. While many who celebrate do not accept his claims of divinity, Christmas remains an international holiday. We do not celebrate the birth of Caesar Augustus whose edict forced Jesus’ parents to journey to Bethlehem. We don’t recognize the birth of King Herod whose murderous scheme forced Jesus’ parents to flee to Egypt. We don’t even know the birthday of Pontius Pilate who officially certified Jesus’ crucifixion.
On earth Jesus is without equal
Jesus alone is celebrated as the single most influential figure of all time. His birth divides history, marking off BC from AD. If he were only human would we be celebrating his birth so widely for so long? Who even knows the birthday of Socrates or Plato?
What makes Jesus so enduringly influential? The celebration of Jesus’ birth centers on giving gifts, reminding us of why he came. He himself is God’s gift to humanity. In Jesus, God Himself came down to earth; to give us life that goes beyond death and that is lived to the full. This truth flies in the face of those who see God as judgmental or waiting to punish them. To truly celebrate Christmas, we must see that Jesus is a living demonstration of God’s love for all people, a human poem of God’s kindness. Jesus explained his mission as God’s Son, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
Jesus offers a gift
However you celebrate Christmas this year, do not forget whose birth we honor, do not miss the meaning. Jesus came to show us God’s love in-person. He came to give us the gift of real life, life that is purposeful and eternal. If you know what it means to be empty and without purpose, let Jesus fill your soul. If Christmas is a time of grief or frustration, let Jesus bring comfort and hope. If you’ve been judged and condemned by someone who claimed to follow Jesus, do not assume they really understood his heart.
Before you write Jesus off, take the time to read one of his biographies. I recommend reading the one written by John, one of his closest followers. You can read this eyewitness account, The Gospel of John about three-fourths of the way through most Bibles. Hear Jesus words yourself; observe his interactions with people, then decide how you will respond to him. This is far too important a decision to let someone else make for you.
May this Christmas be your best ever, as you celebrate God’s gift to you!
John has been Senior Pastor at Hauser since January 2004. He holds a Master of Divinity degree and is married to Candy. They have two children.
Hauser Community Church is at 69411 Wildwood Rd. North Bend. Tel. 756- 2591