Approximately two thousand years ago, the most influential man in all of human history was born, some say of a virgin, somewhere in modern-day Syria-Palestine. We don’t know much about his life until he was some thirty years of age, at which time we know he began a ministry in the area around the Galilee. The thrust of this rabbi’s teaching was on something he referred to as the inauguration of “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Though this kingdom heeded a call for enormous social and political reform, it similarly engaged individuals in a personal responsibility and call to abandon everything else and follow him.
This man demanded a change in the basic way we treat each other. He chose to spend his days among the prostitutes and the morally corrupt. He did not engage with the traditional political parties of his day, but actually called out the conservative religious leaders for following all of the rules, but STILL missing the point entirely. Yeshua, or Yehoshua, as he was called, taught that his Father’s Kingdom would be the implementation of an entirely new vision for the world, one marked by the shalom peace, self-sacrifice, radical generosity, and unconditional LOVE of the Hebrew God.
After committing aggravated assault on the Temple in Jerusalem, he was tried by occupation forces and found guilty of insurrectionism. He was crucified under the authority of the local Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried. His disciples lose hope, scatter, and deny ever knowing him.
Then, something else happens, and a new chapter in human history begins. A resurrection. Some of these cowardly disciples are now beginning to be martyred for the ridiculous claim that their rabbi Yeshua actually rose from the dead.
Yeshua of Nazareth. Jesus. Some called this man healer, rabbi, prophet, revolutionary, miracle-worker, heretic. Others, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Son of the Hebrew God, Christ the King. Whoever he was, his legacy remains. Two thousand years later, we still find ourselves marking our calendars by the anniversary of his birth and billions across the globe are still living and giving and building and even (somewhat ridiculously) killing in his name. Whoever this man was (Lord, liar, or lunatic) his life and death have shaped the face of this very earth.
I personally believe that this man was and is the perfect image of the very same God who made the entire universe, that Jesus is the exact manifestation of this God. And this God is not a distant, angry, impersonal force, but a Being who came down to earth cloaked in human skin with a mission of reconciliation. He came to save us from ourselves. Jesus the Christ was sent to show us the way out of a world holding us captive in the clutches of sin, disease, and death. In Christ, a mysterious God showed us what he was really like and reached out to save us from the walls of our self-constructed prisons.
Jesus came to show us the way of true life.
And while other religious leaders offer recipes or instructions on how to inherit this true life and encounter the divine, Jesus said himself “I am the way.” He claimed to be more than just a prophet, a moral teacher, a revolutionary, or a heretic. He claimed to be this God beyond understanding.
I believe that Jesus was God. I believe that he was telling the truth when he said that “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more fully.” But I do not know this for a fact. I could be wrong. Maybe he was just a man. Maybe he was lying. Maybe, as many of my friends contend, he was simply insane or an incurable egomaniac. But this basic Christian truth is something of which I have steadily become utterly convinced, something I would be willing to die (but never kill) for. This journey has been an incredible adventure, and one I wouldn’t sacrifice for the world.
That’s what Christmas means to me. The commemoration of the birth of the one who would lead us out of darkness and into true life.
So enjoy your families, get together with your friends, and be at peace knowing that the one who crafted the stars is the same God loves you so much that he sent his son into the world to save it, to redeem it, to make you utterly and completely whole.