Was the first Christmas really on Dec. 25? No one knows for certain. Some experts on biblical history (old authorities?) claim the Christ Child was actually born in the spring. Others think that even if the amazing Bethlehem event did occur in the winter, it might have been on a different date. No matter. What does matter is what happened after that.
For most of the world, the modern calendar traces back to the estimated birth of Christ, which is why we have B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, or Year of our Lord). Every time we make a financial transaction using coins, currency or a check, they bear dates that hearken to Christ’s birth. The cliché, “no room at the inn,” is taken directly from the Christmas story.
Many other common references and terms we use today, such as the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, walking on water, turning water into wine, the Lord’s Prayer, faith the size of a mustard seed, the widow’s mite, salt of the earth, and the Cross, are drawn directly from Jesus’ life and teachings.
In addition, He gave us familiar saying such as “judge not lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2), “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), and “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
In these and many other ways, our lives would be very different if it were not for that unique, divine day in an obscure Middle Eastern town. However, that’s not the greatest difference.
Over the years I have met countless men, women and young people whose lives have been changed for all eternity by Jesus Christ. I am among them, as are many members of our family. Because faith in Jesus is far more than a matter of personal opinion or individual ideology. It means experiencing a literal, life-changing event that alters the course of one’s life for both now and once we step onto the other side of eternity.
Speaking to the Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council called the Pharisees, Jesus made the astounding statement, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Being born again, I have learned, means much more than a changed attitude or a new way of thinking. As Jesus elaborated, “…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit…. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5-7).
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul stated this in a different way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!... God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Then, in another of his letters, Paul looked back not to Jesus’ birth but to His crucifixion and resurrection, without which that first Christmas day would have been just another ordinary day: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
So as we celebrate Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus, “Immanuel – which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23), we mark the singular, watershed moment for mankind. Jesus declared, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It’s available to every one of us – the greatest Christmas gift of all – just for the asking.