By the Rev. George Bowers
Even though the "big day" is over for another year, the impact and meaning of Christmas continue to endure. That's because Christmas is the celebration of the birth of one who has changed our world for the better more than any other person who has ever lived.
Regardless of what we may believe about him, Jesus is a historical figure who lived 2,000 years ago and the only one whose death and physical resurrection are documented historical facts. In addition, millions of people today claim to have an ongoing relationship with him, making his continued existence hard to deny.
It is impossible to overestimate the impact of Jesus Christ. Several years ago, Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote a wonderful book titled, "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" In it, Kennedy visits every sphere of human existence to discover the incredible influence Jesus has had and continues to have in our world. Let's review just a few that will help us to appreciate the one whose birth we celebrate each year on Dec. 25.
The roots of education and literacy are entwined around the desire for everyone to be able to read the good news of Jesus for him or herself. The concept of the modern university was also developed under Christian direction with the belief that, "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." In addition, many prominent scientists including Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, Boyle, Babbage, Faraday, Kelvin, Mendel, and Pascal all loved Jesus and founded important fields of science. The scientific method itself was developed by Christians to discover the order God created.
Regard for human life is also founded on the bedrock of Jesus' teachings. Before Jesus, human life was exceedingly cheap and worthless in virtually every culture. Children, the elderly, women, and the infirm were especially devalued and horribly abused. Jesus elevated the worth of all human beings.
Most of the early hospitals and orphanages were started not by atheists who cared about their fellowmen, but by Christians and churches who desired to relieve suffering even as Jesus, their master, did. Concepts such as mercy and grace were very rare before he came and he not only told us about them, but he demonstrated them for us.
The abolition of slavery was promoted and achieved by individuals who believed in treating others as they wished to be treated; Christ's golden rule. The Good Samaritan ethic as well as an emphasis on charity and benevolence are all concepts directly from Jesus' mouth and life. The BC world was a very dark, selfish, and cold place, even as it is becoming more so now as people increasingly reject Jesus' teachings and influence.
The desire to spread the good news of Jesus to all humans also has led to the relief of much suffering. Critics sometimes argue that missionaries have destroyed primitive cultures, but the amount of suffering and injustice that has been relieved by the message and the messengers of the Gospel is incalculable. A brief look at the Fiji Islands will illustrate the point very quickly.
The greatest visual art, literature, music, architecture, and drama also have been inspired by Jesus Christ. Jesus was the primary motivation behind "The Hallelujah Chorus," The Last Supper, St. Peter's Basilica, "Paradise Lost," "Paradise Regained," and Shakespeare's plays. While none of the artists were perfect, each one desired to glorify the savior through their work. And the happy endings to books and dramas, including Disney's, are all linked to the ultimate happy ending of Christ's resurrection!
Aside from the economic benefit his birth brings to retailers each year, the teachings of Jesus also have positively affected the fields of economics and government. With all of these influences on civilization, it's easy to see why all time has been divided into two segments: Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD), Latin for "in the year of our Lord."
Finally, Jesus' greatest impact on this world was, and continues to be, the forgiveness and deliverance from sin that his death and resurrection provide. Countless millions through the ages have enjoyed the comfort and assurance of knowing that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. If you've not asked him to be your savior, do so today and see what enormously positive impact he will make in your life, and with your life.
George Bowers is the Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of "Blessings," "Valley Verses," and "Valley Verses, Volume 2." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.