In this lesson we hypothesize what the world would be like if there had been no first Christmas.
It is hard to comprehend a world without Christ. That is because most of us have grown up in a Christian environment. But perhaps one of the best ways we could comprehend it is to look for just a moment to a period of time after Christ had gone to the cross, then to the grave, then out of the grave in resurrection. And Paul, trying to explain the importance of that to those who would read his letter to the Corinthians, posed a similar question in 1 Corinthians 15. He said in effect, “Let me tell you what life would be like if Christ had not come, if He had not died, if He had not been resurrected from the grave.”
- A World Without Christ?
- A Life Without Christ?
III. Christmas Without Christ?
A World Without Christ?
In 1 Corinthians 15:14 Paul tells us that if Christ had not come, our preaching would be useless.
In that same verse, he says that if Christ had not come, our faith would be empty.
In verse 15 he said that if Christ had not come, those of us who are Christians would be false witnesses. We would be telling lies because we would be saying something was true when indeed it was not.
In 15:17 he said that if Christ had not come, our faith would be futile, worthless.
He said if Christ had not come we would all still be in our sins. We would be unforgiven.
In verse 18 of that text, he said if Christ had not come, we would never see our dead loved ones again, for those who have died have perished. And then in verse 19 he summarizes it by saying if Christ had not come, we would be the most miserable of all people.
Sometimes the only way we can appreciate what we have as Christians is to realize that everything that’s good, and everything that’s wholesome, and everything that’s positive, and everything that’s clean, and everything that’s true, has its roots in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came as the gift of God the Father to be our Savior. It is a wonderful thought to remember that God has not forgotten us.
A Life Without Christ?
But the question, then, must be: If God has not forgotten us, then why do we seem to have forgotten Him?
Every Christmas is the coming together of a magnificent occasion and a wonderful opportunity. It is not different from that first Christmas Day recorded for us in Luke 2:1–7:
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
I like to think of that night in terms of the kind of silence that is observed in the eastern U.S. when snow falls on Christmas Day, and everything is absolutely still.
On this magnificent night recorded by Luke, we are told that Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger. It was a magnificent occasion that escaped observation by almost everyone who was there.
We read in John 1 that “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” At that moment in that silent night when Mary birthed her baby, Deity invaded humanity. In that moment, when Mary birthed her baby, eternity invaded time. And no one really understood that.
Micah the prophet said it this way in his prophecy of Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
How could one be born whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting? In that moment of time when Mary birthed her baby, Royalty invaded poverty. The One who had all wealth at His disposal, who was the King of glory, who created the world that we love and live in, that same One was birthed to Mary.
What a magnificent occasion! A silent night interrupted by a tiny cry in Bethlehem. This magnificent occasion was set up from eternity past. And it wonderfully met every criterion that was laid out for it.
But, on this night of all nights, it happened in a place where no one even recognized what was going on. The God who had refused to forget us, was forgotten by those to whom He first came. The Bible tells us “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). The King of glory had come down, and He was not recognized or received.
The innkeeper should not have missed it because he was so close to it. Isn’t it interesting how we can go through life, and often be so close to the magnificent, and never let it dawn upon our conscious awareness? He was so close. The mother of our Lord was at his door. She was seeking a place to birth the Son of God, and he would not let her in because there was no room.
Christmas Without Christ?
Am I pressing the point too much when I say that today the world is filled with innkeepers who miss the meaning of Christmas?
If that is not the case, why, as we go through the shopping centers during this season, are there so many grim faces in our stores, so many exhausted, sleepy people in our churches the Sunday before Christmas? The innkeeper missed Christmas not because he was angry or because he was belligerent. He missed Christmas because of ignorant preoccupation. He got so busy with everything that was going on in his life, taking care of the inn, taking care of the census, taking care of all of the pressure, he couldn’t stop to reflect upon the moment that was at hand.
Many people today are like that. The chambers of their souls are filled with needless things, stuff that doesn’t really matter. They miss the Messiah of God. Oh, how hard it is for us to clear out the chambers of our heart and mind, and make room for the Messiah!
One of the great tragedies of our time is not that God has forgotten us, but that we have forgotten Him. On the same day that Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian-born Nobel prize winner, was presented with the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion by Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, he addressed many of Britain’s leading political and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Over half a century ago,” stated Solzhenitsyn, “while I was still a child, I remember hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation of the great disasters that have befallen Russia. Men have forgotten God. That’s why it has all happened. And if I were called upon to identify the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, I would be unable to find anything more precise and more worthy than to repeat, men have forgotten God.”
In our world today, doesn’t it seem to you that men have forgotten God? And we who have been given this holiday occasion to embrace the Christ because God has not forgotten us, we must ask ourselves in our hearts, “Have I forgotten God?” That is not a question just for those who do not know God through Christ. That is a question for all of us. It is possible for us to live as practical atheists and still be Christians in the sense that we go through our lives without giving any time whatsoever to the One who came to make life meaningful for us. Let us not, at this time of the year, forget the One who has not forgotten us.
Some have heard the gospel message throughout life from a mother’s teaching, in Sunday school, or growing up in church. Periodically, you have been reminded that it was for you that this Christ came. But like the innkeeper, you are so busy with everything else you keep pushing Him away. But there is a day coming when He will knock no more. If He knocks at your heart today, you must not forget Him. That is the message of Christmas. You must not forget the One who refused to forget you. Receive Him as your Savior.
- If you know Christ today, make a list of as many good things as possible that would not exist in your life if not for your relationship with Him.
- Which of those events or circumstances were bad things that the Lord Jesus Christ transformed into something good?
- What, then, is the connection between Christ’s resurrection from the dead and His ability to redeem our lives into something good? (See Romans 8:11, 28–31.)
- In 1 Corinthians 15:12–22, what eventual circumstance is Paul connecting to Christ’s resurrection?
Why is that an essential part of every Christian’s perspective on the future?
If the resurrection of Christ is not a historical fact, where does that leave every Christian?
- What has been the historical pattern of great nations that have denied or left their faith in Christ?
In our culture today, what is replacing a belief in the Jesus of the Bible?
What effect is that producing?
- Do you believe it is possible for a genuine Christian to “forget God” in a practical, day-to-day sense?
Why or why not?
What would you forecast as some of the symptoms of that problem?
- What would you propose as good “preventative medicine” for not forgetting God?
What would you propose as good solutions for those Christians who have?
- In what way(s) might the Christmas holiday season afford an opportunity for us to “remember” Him? To encourage others to do the same?
To make Him known to those who don’t know Him?
Did You Know?
Although the story line for the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” is purely fanciful and fictitious, it has for decades connected with those who feel forgotten and forsaken during the holidays, even pointing many to the God of the Bible and genuine faith in Christ.
For actor James Stewart, the barroom scene in which he cries out to God was so profoundly moving, the tears were real and the experience entirely unique. When he was asked to do another take for the benefit of facial closeups, he flatly refused, admitting that at that precise moment, he felt something of the desperation and hopelessness of those who have nowhere else to turn but the true God. The film editors worked with the one take they had, closeups were engineered by enlarging one frame at a time, and a truly vicarious moment of a desperate man’s plea to God made it to the screen.
Use the final remains of various colors of crayons. Shave each color and create stacks of shavings by color. Let each child create their design by placing the colors in the pattern they create on a piece of waxed paper. Place another piece of paper on top of the crayon shavings and gently but firmly set a hot iron on the paper. To make sure you have the work surface protected, place a large piece of foil under the entire project. I also place a piece of waxed paper over the top before I set the iron down.
After the paper has cooled, gently peel the top sheet of paper off and enjoy the beauty of an original stained glass window. You may be surprised at the artistic expression in your family.
 Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 112–123). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.