The Birth of a Sacrifice

As I have stated in this space before, so much of the Christmas season is not related to Christmas at all. (This year’s foolish distraction? What Starbucksdoes or does not put on their cups.) As the Christmas holiday approaches this year, my mind is stuck on questions of ontology and causal determinism. To put it more simply – the importance of Christmas seems to me to not be found in the study of the when and the how. Instead the importance of Christmas should be found in the who and the why.

While these questions are not necessarily parallel I would like to treat them as such. The idea that Jesus was born during the Christmas season is a fairy tale usually believed only by children. In my mind’s eye I still can envision the crèches I saw in my childhood, with Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus surrounded by animals, with a fresh bed of snow on the ground. As we get older we come to understand that the Christmas season is the time designated to commemorate the birth of Christ, not an actual statement of historical accuracy. Despite this, critics of the holiday, both Christian and otherwise, highlight the time of the celebration as factually inaccurate in order to bolster arguments against Christmas. Some of this criticism could be alleviated if we spent more time focusing on just who came on Christmas. I would like us to return to Jesus as the reason for the season, but not in a way that relegates him to the cliché I just quoted. Instead, the focus should be on the two elements of Christ that I think can have mass appeal. For those of us who are spiritually inclined, the idea of Christ as the Son of God and a part of God Himself is the most important element of the holiday. I have always loved Paul’s statement in Philippians on this subject – “[Jesus] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to begrasped, butemptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”[1]Look what Jesus gave up in order to live amongst us. Who is this Being who would do such a thing? The answer is someone that anyone could follow, regardless of whether they believe in the divinity of Christ. Jesus is someone whose life and teachings exist in perfect balance. He is the traditional progressive.Focused on self-betterment while also extremely compassionate and empathetic. Filled with love, mercy, and grace while also filled with a sense of purpose and responsibility. In Jesus we find not only Someone who we can all relate to, but also Someone who challenges us to be better than we are.

Christmas, when we do focus on the who, is filled with retellings of his miraculous birth. And rightly so. However, unless Jesus’ existence is a fait accompli, why Jesus came is much more important story to tell then the particular circumstances that brought him here. I would like to believe that Jesus could’ve made a mistake and just didn’t – if that’s not true than His is an example that no one can follow. As such, His birth is the first step of many in accomplishing what appears to me to be a twofold goal. First, to show humanity how to live and second, to sacrifice Himself in order to make that living possible. Once again Paul’s statement in Philippians is instructive – “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The humility and the obedience that Jesus showed is the reason why He came, and His death allows me to model that humility and obedience in my own life through His help. Christmas does not mean anything without that.

I will admit – I see Christmas through new eyes this year, having just become a parent, despite the fact that my child is too young to ever remember this particular holiday. But having family visit and opening my daughter’s presents under the tree takes on a particularly different and special meaning for me this year. However, I hope that the joy that we will share in the trappings of Christmas will never detract from the who and the why that makes all that joy not only meaningful, but possible.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues

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Christians should be rejoice that the world recognizes and has adopted Christmas as a holiday. It’s origin may be murky but stories are so important to give meaning to our lives. The actual time and accompanying stories were not originally part of Christianity for decades; as myths have added features through the years.

But what difference does it make whether the stories are all literally true or not? Christians, by their beliefs and practices made a celebration that the world enjoys. For those who believe that Christianity is a dying religion, this annual winter holiday will always remind them that Christianity became adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire only three centuries after Christ’s birth and is still celebrated two thousand years later.

Jason, congratulations! Having a child at Christmastime to share the joys of the holidays is a great blessing. In the article The Birth of a Sacrifice 24 December 2015, you said: “In Jesus we find not only Someone who we can all relate to, but also Someone who challenges us to be better than we are.” Let me assure you that this is the best time of your life.

The phrase “The Grass is Always Greener” is a long running universal theme of humanity. It’s the concept that no matter where you are, it always seems a little better somewhere else. It’s not that it’s 100% of the time we want to be somewhere else or do something else, but in general, when you look at the way that we operate, we tend to be “grass is always greener” people. It’s sort of the nature of the way that we are, it’s often easier to see the benefits and privileges of a different situation than it is to see them of our own. The same sort of thing happens with us. With Jesus and your baby this is the best time for your family.
The point that you are making is simple, whether you can see it or not, you are in the greenest possible pasture known to all mankind for all time. There is no greater place to be. This is the story. This is the covenant. This is the promise. This is where you belong. There may be moments where you are tempted to go back, but the only way to go is forward. As we go through the book of our life’s journey we are going to see an overwhelming case for the fact that Jesus is better. He is better than anything the world has to offer. He is better than any persecution, any pain, any opportunity. He is truly the better life.
Have a happy 2016 with Jesus!

there is Glory in the manger. there is Glort in the Cross, There is Glory in the empty tomb, That Glory is called the Gospel. thanks for bringing that Glory home. tom Z

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Since the media, in general, is fixated on the trivial and frivolous, what else would we expect from them? And then there are those who see a conspiracy behind every activity of large corporations or the government.

I agree, with one caveat: the when is relevant because the Bible predicted His arrival (not as a baby, but as Messiah) right down to the very year. That prophecy is one of the many bits of evidence showing that the Bible is divine, rather than human, in origin. But this time of year does give Christians a golden opportunity to direct people’s attention to the Saviour of mankind.

Thank you very much, JAson, nanany thanjks to the commenters. This time of the year - wehn it is at first getting darker and darker - and then, to be experienced every evening, at a sudden, the days get longer again (in our environment) Nature mreminds us of Jes 60 : 2 ( - darkness shall cover the earth - ) ; or Gaal 4 : 4 ( - but when the fullness of time had come - )

I was acquainted with oind eof the first Adventists in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad) she was theone daughter of a waelthy merchant in the main street. For Christmas festival each of the children go one orange and a little bar of homemade marzipan … and millions opf people during the last milleniums ad Christmas meal once i a long time having a tasty , filling meal. Christmas for them was a promise of the time to come.