It happens more often as you get older, I think. Christmas and the turn of a year become less about parties and more about perspective-more about what you have than what you'll get. For the children of God, then, Christmas only gets better as our understanding deepens about what our holy God accomplished by assuming human likeness.
But let's consider George Bailey's question for a moment in terms of the Savior: “What if Jesus had never been born?”
I heard you gasp-history without the Incarnation? The ramifications send theologians' heads spinning, I know. To be truthful, I once took the Incarnation lightly. I did not grasp how helpless we were, or how aggressive is God's grace. With my earthly view I saw Christ's atonement in only one dimension: For God so loved the world that He gave me another option for a wonderful life-a really awesome upgrade. I just didn't understand the cost of wrapping Himself in flesh and living and dying under the shadow of the cross.
Without Jesus' incarnation God could not have welcomed us into heaven with open arms. He could not have looked the other way when our sin-dead hearts glanced in His direction. A holy God cannot discount the cost of sin-sin that not only separated us from Him but also made us His enemies.
Enemies? Isn't that a little harsh? We would like to think so, but the truth is that if Jesus had never been born, we still would be God's enemies. His righteousness and holiness cannot tolerate sinners. And sinners we would remain if Jesus had stayed away.
But enter love….
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom. 5:8-10).
“Reconciled” is a ten-dollar word for saying our relationship has changed. God removed the barrier that separated His holiness from our sinfulness. Jesus' outrageous sacrifice built the bridge to His Father so that we as His enemies could become His friends. He transformed estrangement into intimacy.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior,” Paul wrote to the church in Colosse. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Col. 1:21Ð22). Through sin we burned our bridge to God. Through Christ's birth, death, and resurrection, He rebuilt it.
Just as George Bailey stood at the edge of a bridge and contemplated his life, we too must consider our lives as if Jesus had never been born. Considering the outcome spurs us into correct self-awareness-and proper reverence for Christ. If Jesus had never been born, the bridge between us and God would lay smoldering in pieces, and we would face a God who is righteously wrathful, holy, and distant. We would be His enemies. But because Jesus lived, died, and paid our ransom, God came near, and invites us to turn from our sin and run to Him across the bridge of reconciliation. What a change in our relationship. Talk about an upgrade!
That's the real Christmas story.
Even if we know that, this phenomenal truth of Christmas can become like the decorations we unpack, admire, and pack up again each year. This year why not pause at the bridge of reconciliation-and consider its very existence. Ask yourself, “How has my life changed because Jesus came?” and “What are the blessings I now enjoy because He became my ransom?” The reality and blessings of Christ's birth will cause us to exclaim again, “It's a wonderful life!”