1 John 1.1-4
Rev Canon Dr John Senyonyi
All religions thrive and survive on two notions: historical accuracy and the validity of their stated revelation.
Many claim to be rooted in history, or in a founder who is a historical figure and who claimed to ‘hear’ from God or a god. If the two beliefs are fuzzy, so will the foundation on which the religion stands.
I read about an atheist in South Carolina, USA, who was suing the State for denying him permission to register his personalised number plate, “I am God”! Apparently he had successfully registered the same kind of number plate in another state.
‘God’! This is more than a word. The mention of God, even a god, conjures up a reverential attitude toward what is called God or a god. A ‘god’ is often represented with pictures or images. It reminds me of entering an Indian shop in the US, which had a grotesque picture on display in the shop window.
With my two friends, we tried to share the good news of the Christ with the Hindu shopkeeper. He took us to that picture and explained to us that this was his god!
On the contrary, monotheists seldom point to a picture or image of their God. That is because God cannot be represented pictorially; He cannot be looked at with human eyes. In fact, Judaism believed that if you saw Him, His visibility would strike you dead. Throughout the Bible, all sightings of this God remain non-utterable! Those who ‘saw’ Him described what was around Him, never Him.
Christianity makes the fantastic and peculiar claim about Jesus thus: “That which was from the beginning … which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands … we have seen it ….”
The great joy for us is that God has been made manifest. That is why we celebrate Christmas! He appeared as man and lived among men.
Which makes me wonder: “What if Christ was not born?” The first result is evident: without God coming among us, our knowledge of Him remains an imagination, an object of our opinions and claims. Or, as it happens these days, the world would be replete with claims of a revelation of God, with many claiming to be His messengers. If you do not see or seek God in Jesus Christ, you follow anyone who claims to be a pastor or bishop or prophet or apostle!
So as we mark Christmas, we should reflect on the opportunity to celebrate the coming of God to earth. Christians call it the incarnation; God became man. Christmas is God’s authentic, self-revelation. We know Him because He revealed Himself in Christ. Jesus repeatedly taught that whoever saw Him saw the Father. If Christ was not born, we would not know God.
Christmas is also a historical reality. The birth of Jesus is verifiable in history. The Gospel writers casually record it as an event in history, yet it is simultaneously a divine event.
Had Christ not been born, there would be no Christmas, nothing to celebrate. We would be without two great benefits that Christmas brings to us.
The first is eternal life. Christmas announces that eternal life is made manifest in Christ. Jesus came as the personification of this eternal life, exclusively given to those who embrace the Son of God. John writes about it thus: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” We would not know eternal life if Christ was not born.
Secondly, Christmas ushers us into fellowship with God. I used to pray before coming to Christ, as it was my religious duty, right from childhood. I would not go to bed before dutifully offering my prayer. I still have the vivid memory of the first prayer beside my bed, the night I came to Christ. God’s presence flooded my room, and I spoke to Him.
When I read the Bible, it had the aura of God speaking to me personally. Then I met with other Christian students in our Christian Union meeting. Their presence and their words resonated with my experience. This was fellowship with God, and it has remained with me. I hunger for it. Authentic Christian living is the interminable desire to be in God’s presence. That too is a blessing of Christmas.
We would have no fellowship with God or with other Christians if Christ was not born! That is why Christmas is complete joy, given free to you and me!