On Christmas Eve, 1998, George Will wrote a column for the Washington Post called “The Happiest Holiday.” It began this way:
“A sardonic British skeptic of the late 19th century suggested that three words should be carved in stone over all church doors: “Important if true.” On Christmas Eve, at the end of the rarely stately and always arduous march that Americans make each year to the happiest holiday, it sometimes seems that they are supposed to celebrate Christmas as though they have agreed to forget what supposedly it means.“
But we must not forget what it all means–and especially at Christmas–because it really is “important if true.” We may need to distinguish between the parts of the story that really are true, and the ones we’ve added along the way, but the realities of the divine incarnation that occurred that night in Bethlehem are life-altering. Or at least, they should be.
Let’s examine some of the outlandish claims of Christmas:
- An angel visited a virgin who became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
- The baby in her womb was the Son of God from heaven.
- God caused a pagan emperor to call for a taxation that sent Mary and Joseph back to Bethlehem at the very moment Jesus was born.
- Prophets foretold both the Messiah’s virgin birth, and his birth in Bethlehem, hundreds of years before it happened.
- Angels spoke to shepherds, proclaiming the birth of Jesus, and that He had come to reconcile God and man.
And if those things are true, as Scripture attests and we as Christ-followers believe, then we must understand that this was a world-changing event like no other. Clearly, the God of the universe–and His very existence is surely “important if true”–was up to something big. And that one event is the defining moment in human history. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Whatever you do, however you commemorate Advent or celebrate Christmas, don’t miss the incredible reality of it all. This is not a myth, this is no childhood fantasy, this is not just a winter holiday. Whether the secular world recognizes it or not, the coming of Christ is a very big deal. It is important, because it is true.
I am reminded of a popular C.S. Lewis quote about Christianity in general. He said: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Likewise, if Christmas is true, it cannot be an afterthought. If God really did come to earth–Emmanuel, God with us–to save the world from our sin, then it is more important than any decorating, parties, shopping or family get-togethers that come with the season. The Word, who was from the beginning, became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory! Glory to God in the highest!
My prayer is that the truth of Christmas will be what is most important to you this holiday season. I look forward to seeing you Sunday–morning and evening–as we celebrate Jesus together.