In the beginning of C.S. Lewis’ beloved book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the reader enters a wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. But the wonder of this discovery is quickly overshadowed. There is a White Witch and Narnia is covered in a curse: It is always winter, but never Christmas. Always winter, never Christmas.
What would the world be like without Christmas? That is, what would it be like without the declaration of Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11)?
One cannot but think the world would be adrift, like a ship at sea whose captain remains ever incapable of charting a course to safe harbor through shoals of deadly reef.
Actually, the Bible describes it better than that and illustrates it through a people, Israel. throughout centuries of real, human history. The prophet Isaiah describes the state of the Israelites, themselves emblematic of the entire world, as a people “walking in darkness,” “dwelling in a land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2). Genesis 6 speaks more ominously, saying, “The earth was filled with violence... and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12). That would be the world without Christmas: An unbroken trajectory of brokenness.
There would not be hope in humanity itself either. When there is nothing greater than humanity to which to aspire, then it is merely the “best” among humanity setting the standards for goodness, truth, and beauty, as well as justice, mercy, and fidelity. Again, subtract the arrival of Christ and the full consequences of His redemption and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon regenerate humanity, and what we are left with is the best of humanity; the very same humanity which bears all the foibles, failings, and frailty as, well, everyone else. There is no one righteous, no, not one.
The historical record prior to the Advent of Christianity (beginning with Christmas) yields no evidence of moral evolution for humanity. Instead, it is a sordid record of moral devolution and degeneration. Even the highest aspirations of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason itself, gave us the most destructive and deadly century on record, the Twentieth. Indeed, scientific and technological advancements, despite their conveniences and salutary aspects, have produced greater and more efficient alienation, warfare, governmental control, surveillance economy, and dehumanization.
Always winter, never Christmas.
Vacate Christmas of Immanuel, God-with-us, and there is a clear picture of the plight of humanity. No Christmas means no Mary or Joseph, no shepherds or angels, just an empty stable full of straw and animals; a metaphor for humanity left to itself, producing straw and indistinguishable from the animals (concomitant with the teaching of materialists). No Christmas, no God in human flesh. No Savior. No “unto you” and, therefore, nothing actually “for you.” No one living a perfect life for you, no one obeying the Law’s demands on your behalf, no one healing disease and casting out demons, no one preaching the Gospel and no Good Friday. No cross. No suffering. No death. No forgiveness. No resurrection. No life.
Vacate Christmas of Immanuel, God-with-us, and there is a clear picture of the plight of humanity.
Take away Christmas, take away Jesus’ incarnation, and there is nothing Christian left. In a word, there would be only our dwelling in a land of deep darkness, and the darkness would be of our own making.
But God is light. In Him there is no darkness. And His answer to such darkness is to be for us, “the light of the world.” For unto us and for us there is light, and the light is Christ. God achieves redemption in the deepest darkness. In fact, His work to shine like into darkness is a biblical theme and pattern, one which prepares us to recognize the miracle of Christmas. For example, God spoke the words, “Let there be light,” into the darkness and void of creation. “And it was so.” God promised a rescue from the darkness of sin and death even after Adam’s fall. God proclaimed that Abraham’s offspring would deliver all nations, as he gazed at the immeasurable night-sky. God led Israel out of captivity and bondage to slavery as they sat in darkness preparing and eating the Passover meal. God brought victory to Israel by twilight as Gideon’s lamps filled the Midianites with fear and confusion. God sent His angels to the shepherds as the light of glory pierced the shadows of Bethlehem’s hillsides.
Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. And you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
(Adapted from Luke 2 and Isaiah 9)
Christ’s incarnation is the grand miracle of the Christian faith: The uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, bringing nature up with Him (C.S. Lewis). The Creator becomes the Creature. The Infinite takes up residence in the Finite. The fullness of the Deity dwells among us bodily. God and Man are reconciled. The image of God is restored to Man. Uncreated Light comes to cast out the darkness of our sin.
Of course, this means saying the politically incorrect and impolite thing and owning up to our sin. Calling our sin what it is: Darkness, damnable, and death. Isaiah was also prophesying about us. We sit in deep darkness. But that is only half of the prophet’s words. There is no need to sit in the darkness holding onto your precious sin anymore. Unto you a child is born! Unto you is the prophetic way of saying for you. “Unto you” is the proto-Christmas greeting, the ancient “Merry Christmas to you.” Unto you means “for you.”
There is no need to sit in the darkness holding onto your precious sin anymore. Unto you a child is born!
Oh, come, ye unfaithful,
Broken and polluted!
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye,
Come and behold Him,
Born the friend of sinners:
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!
(Written by Chad Bird)
Luther once said, “I know no other God than the One who hangs on a cross and nurses at the breast of His mother.” This is the profound miracle of the Incarnation. No other world religion can make, or dares to make, this historical, monumental claim. God and Man are One in the person of Jesus. God of the eternal Father, Man of His virgin Mother, Jesus brings God and Man together as one, unique Person, a new Adam, a new Head for humanity. Unto you is born a Savior.
Jesus, then, is not the “reason for the season.” Your need of rescue is the reason for the “unto you is born... a Savior.” Jesus was not born for Himself. Jesus did not live for Himself. He had no need to die for Himself. He did all the “unto you,” for you. Christ became man for you. Christ lived a perfect life for you. Christ paid the debt of your sins, suffered for you, bled for you. Christ hung on the cross in darkness for you. Christ delivered you from the shadow of death by dying for you. All of God’s night-time rescues of old, for Abraham, Israel, and Gideon, all lead down to the cross.
All because Christ was born for you.
Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
Unto you is born the Light of the World to scatter the darkness of your sin and death... far as the curse is found. Unto you is born the true Fountain of Life who baptizes you with living water and sacred blood, flowing from His pierced side. Unto you is born the One who speaks a word of absolution over your sins as quickly and surely as He spoke creation into being. Unto you is born the Word made flesh who gives His flesh for you to eat and His blood for you to drink.
Here, therefore, is the true Christmas celebration, a Christmas feast, where Christ’s Word is preached and heard, where His body and blood are given and received in a paten in the same way it was received into a feeding trough, where the Word made Flesh continues to dwell among us. It is always Christmas, never winter, “...for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
The Christmas fact yields the fact of the crucifixion of the Son of God, the fact of the resurrection, and the fact that there is no need to wonder what the world would be like without Christmas ever again.