As a christian I would say it’s a wonderful time indeed, because we are - or at least should be - celebrating the birth of the most wonderful person in history, Jesus. He is one of those persons so unique that he does not need any qualifiers on his name. Just Jesus is enough and everyone knows who we’re talking about. Almost no one dislikes Jesus, one notable exception being Jews, maybe unaware that Jesus was one of them.
Even though it’s highly uncertain that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, this is a date that has been observed by christians for centuries. We have records of the birth of Jesus being remembered on this date as soon as the 4th century.
But nevermind all of that. And nevermind the fact that we know dates of death of early christian martyrs but have no idea when they were born. In fact birthday celebrations might have been completely foreign to early christians. Nevermind the fact that Christmas has been highjacked by our capitalist/corporate world to push western consumerism to the max. Nevermind the fact that most of the western world is so secularized that hardly anyone remembers that this was the date that we are supposed to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, a strange birthday indeed where everyone else gets the presents…
Regardless of all that, around 2 millennia ago JESUS WAS BORN! And we still feel the effects of that today! Let’s celebrate that!
Why is Jesus such an unique figure in history? Let me share some ideas I read here, expressed in a more eloquent manner than I ever could.
More than nineteen hundred years ago, there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood. He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor formal education. In infancy He startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the waves as pavement, and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service. He never wrote a book, and yet perhaps all the libraries of the world could not hold the books that have been written about Him. He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students. He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired. He never practiced psychiatry, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near. Once each week multitudes congregate at worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him. The names of the past, proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone. But the name of this Man multiplies more and more. Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and the mockers at His crucifixion, He still lives. His enemies could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him. He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the risen, personal Christ, our Lord and Savior.
There is no one else like Jesus. He said things that if said by someone else would be crazy. Only a madman would say the things he did. The people around him thought so
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
So, exactly what kinds of crazy things did Jesus say? Let’s review a couple of them, just from the book of John.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
“I and the Father are one”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
In summary, Jesus thought of himself as:
- Equal or One with God
- The source of life and able to raise the dead
- The one who will judge the world
- Worthy of the same honor as God
- The light of the world
- The truth
- The only way to God
No wonder that most deemed him as a lunatic. If anyone else made this kind of affirmations he would have been labeled as mentally unstable! Once again we get into Lewis Trilemma. Assuming that the gospel of John is an accurate account of what Jesus actually said, either he was delusional about himself, trying to purposefully deceive his listeners or he was actually right!
Even though I’m reasonably confident on it’s reliability, it’s not mandatory to put all of the weight of this argument on John’s gospel. The other gospels also paint a picture of Jesus thinking this way about himself. Even if not all of the statements could be relied upon for historical truth, the fact is that Jesus didn’t think of himself as a mere man. The question is: was he right or was he wrong?
I’m not at all capable of thinking of Jesus as a liar or a lunatic, so I’ve made my decision.
If this Jesus of Nazareth is really who he said he was, the angel’s chorus was right to announce his birth by saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”