Editor's note: This Christmas reflection was originally published by the Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College.
By Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson
Amidst this season of gift-giving and merry-making, let’s ponder three remarkable aspects of the nativity of the baby Jesus two millennia ago.
#1. Birth to a virgin. To atheistic materialism, this seems like a fairy tale. Spiritually, though, what could make more sense? God is supreme; therefore, the divine supersedes the human and the spiritual trumps the material in every way. Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and ultimate departure via ascension illustrate that fundamental point. (See Isa. 55:9.)
Indeed, throughout his earthly sojourn, Jesus repeatedly transcended material limits and so-called laws. He walked on water; transported a ship to shore instantaneously long before anybody dreamed of “Scotty, beam me up;” he instantaneously healed leprosy, a man born blind, and a withered hand; he fed thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes, and ended up with more food than he started with; he restored life to Lazarus after four days in the grave; Those are but a few examples, of course.
Skepticism doubts the historical authenticity of these occurrences, and instead claims that humans have evolved from a primordial ball of gas—that beautiful art, loving hearts, selfless giving, and feelings ranging from grief to joy are mere chemical reactions of no permanent significance. Question: Who/What created that ball of gas? No, my atheistic friends (I used to share your beliefs), I’ll trust Jesus’ assurances of eternal life given by a loving, all-wise Creator. That doesn’t seem nearly as superstitious to me as the ball-of-gas theory.
#2. Mary and Joseph. What perfect models of parenthood are Jesus’ human parents: loving, nurturing, protective. Mary’s utter purity and her humble willingness to make her will subservient to God’s remain awesomely exemplary. Joseph, too, was spiritually receptive and humbly obedient. He accepted the angelic message about Mary’s miraculous conception, and was totally supportive and protective of his wife, even though the baby she carried was not his own, even as she was betrothed to him. Later, he heeded the angel’s warning about Herod’s deadly intent, and without delay took Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt until the danger had passed.
#3. The mission of Jesus. The Jewish people had been anticipating the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One to deliver them from Roman oppression. The name “Jesus” means “Joshua”—the same as Moses’ successor, a powerful military leader who vanquished the Jews’ enemies. But the child Jesus came to Earth with a higher mission.
Jesus came first to the Jewish people, because they were the only monotheists and it was the Hebrew prophets who had foretold His coming. However, Jesus did not come to save only Jews. His mission was not tribal, but universal. As the famous scriptural verse from John states, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Whoever”—not just the genealogical descendants of Abraham.
Furthermore, Jesus’ mission wasn’t the limited goal of political liberation, but the boundless goal of everlasting salvation from all the enslaving enemies of all humankind: sin, sickness, sadness, and death. He came to replace mortality with eternal life and the woes of this world with the bliss of heaven.
The magnificent core of Jesus’ teachings is sublimely simple: Love God wholeheartedly and your neighbor as yourself. We humans—even self-professed Christians—haven’t completely mastered those rules yet, but we are gradually making progress. Certainly it is encouraging that the oppressive Roman Empire is long gone while billions of people have accepted the sovereignty of the Savior, Jesus Christ. As His message of love for one another warms more hearts and animates more lives, war will diminish. Jesus is indeed “the prince of peace.” Hallelujah! And thank you, Lord.
Wishing you a joyous, holy Christmas.
(Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is a retired adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College.