Recent news accounts of Black Friday and the beginning of the Christmas season have included shootings and stabbings at retailers in several states. An alleged shoplifter dragged a police officer from his car before being shot in the arm by other law enforcement officers at a department store. In an American city two assailants reportedly attempted to steal a TV from a man who had recently purchased it. A police officer in Rialto, Calif., was injured when a fight broke out at a Wal-Mart. In Virginia a man was allegedly slashed with a knife during an altercation with another shopper over a parking space at another Wal-Mart. So much for “peace on earth, good will toward men.” We are prone to ask, then what difference does the coming of Christ make for life on this planet?
A modern rendition of the Gospel from John 1:9-14 puts the coming of Christ in perspective:
The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light.
He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
After more than 2000 years Jesus Christ has more people who follow him in more places than ever. John Ortberg says, “Some believe he is a fluke of history. ‘Maybe Jesus was just a kind, simple innocent soul with a good mom and a knack for catchy sayings who showed up in the right place at the right time. Maybe his place in history is a remarkable accident. But maybe it isn’t.’”
Jesus’ life generates more research, more conjecture, more faith and more worship than any person who has ever lived. He stands alone as the most written and talked about figure in the last 20 centuries. He has not only influenced religion but compassion, education, arts, architecture, medicine, politics and human rights.
Jesus never wrote a book or owned an Ipad but has been behind the formation of most early schools. Imagine no Oxford, Notre Dame, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale and countless other schools. Imagine a world without Mother Theresa and Desmond Tutu. Jesus and the Bible have spawned more literacy than any other movement. Clocks were invented because monks needed to know when to pray. Eyeglasses first came about because monks needed to read Scripture. Even a Christian monk named Dom Perrignon invented champagne.
This baby born in Bethlehem influenced the first hospital founded by Benedict, the Red Cross, Easter Seals, Goodwill, AA and its 12 Steps, and The Salvation Army. Jesus is the inspiration for music, art and literature. Imagine a world without Dante, Bach, Mozart or Handel, not to speak of the continuously flowing streams of modern contributions in these disciplines.
Jesus never held office or led an army yet he has influenced the formation and reformation of government everywhere. He influenced marriage, the treatment of women and children and the plight of the poor. Even our own constitution with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights...” That’s a Jesus principle.
May Christmas 2014 bring to us a fresh vision of this man.
Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.