World without Christ: An Advent Meditation for Christmas Eve

what is christmas all aboutWhat if Jesus had not been born? What if there were no Messiah?

A common plea from some Christians is to “put Christ back in Christmas,” for “He is the Reason for the Season.” As one who tries to be a keen observer of cultural trends, I agree that our Christmas holiday season is almost devoid of references to the birth of Christ or to Christian themes. We have cola swilling polar bears, epic NBA games, electric nosed reindeer, and magically enlivened and dancing snowmen, but little place for the baby in Bethlehem. It is rare to find someone like the child-philosopher, Linus, who can quote Luke 2 in all its King James Version glory and answer Charlie Brown’s wondering as to “what is Christmas all about?” We know that Christmas should be white, but do we remember it should be holy? We might feel blue at Christmas, but do we remember to feel thankful? We want to be home for Christmas, but do we long to be close to God?

So what if there had been no Messiah? What if Mary had miscarried in the first month? What if the baby was a victim of the frightening infant mortality rate in the ancient world? What if Joseph has ignored his dream, stayed in Bethlehem, and young Jesus had been slain by Herod’s henchmen?

I suspect we would still have some sort of winter celebration. After all, there is no biblical evidence that Jesus was born in December, and snow is rare in Bethlehem with its moderate climate, so there is a disconnect between Christian Christmas and winter anyway. We might still have snow festivals and ice sculptures. The pagan elements that have been incorporated into our Christmas season may have survived on their own: yule logs, mistletoe, perhaps the evergreen Christmas tree with its lighted candles.

But what an empty holiday it would be! What a hopeless world we would live in without Christ! Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 15:32 would ring as truth, not irony:

Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.

I love the hustle and bustle, the excitement and anticipation, the joy and good-will of Christmas. But, as wise Linus teaches us, Christmas must be about Christ and his birth. And Christmas must remember his death, too, for he was born to be named “Jesus,” because he would save his people from their sins.

Prayer: Holy Jesus, may you give us a spirit of repentance this Christmas, a desire to be like you. As we celebrate Eucharist tonight, may our lives be renewed in your presence as we share your Table with your people. May we turn over our moral failings to you so you can take our sins away. Amen and Amen.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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