Have you ever considered what the world would be like if a single event had not occurred? Chaos theory describes this idea as the Butterfly Effect – how a seemingly small change can result in large and unpredictable differences throughout whatever system is being considered.
That is the premise behind one of the most iconic and well-loved Christmas movies ever produced. It’s a Wonderful Life contemplates how drastically different life in Bedford Falls, and around the world, would have been without the life and contributions of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. I love that movie.
But what if we were to extrapolate that idea a bit and consider what things would be like if another person had never been born. Not a fictional George Bailey, but what would things be like had Jesus Christ not been born 2,000 years ago?
What if there was no Christmas?
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to 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, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:1-14)
This is the Christmas story as reported in the Gospel of Luke. This story changed everything.
But what if there wasn’t a Christmas?
Well, if Christmas hadn’t happened there would be no caroling, no glad tidings, no Christmas celebrations. There wouldn’t be anything really to look forward to as the daylight grows shorter and the days get colder.
There wouldn’t be any festive light displays with the neighborhood Clarke Griswold overdoing everything to spread a bit of joy.
But it wouldn’t just be Christmas.
There would be no Thanksgiving.
Without Christmas, there would be no Christ for the Pilgrims, (or as they called themselves, the Saints) to flee England to find a place to worship as they chose. Without Pilgrims, there would be no Harvest Festival that would later be known as Thanksgiving. There would have been nothing for them to have been thankful for, either. At that first fall celebration, they gave thanks to God in spite of the fact that only 44 of the 102 Pilgrims had survived that first year. Their faith in Christ was what sustained them. But without Christmas, none of that would have happened.
Without Christmas, there would be no organizations dedicated to helping the poor, sick, disabled, or orphans. It was those early followers of Jesus who had the radical message to care for people who had no hope of returning the favor. Those followers of the Baby in the manger have founded nearly all modern charitable organizations throughout the world. Red Cross, Compassion International, Convoy of Hope, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse…without Christmas, these would not exist.
Had there been no Christmas, education would be radically different.
Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and most of the first 120+ colleges and universities in America were founded by Christians.
Followers of Christ taught that there was no difference between ethnicities or gender but all should be treated equally and provided an educational opportunity. There are many examples where it was done imperfectly and sometimes there was division, but it was the followers of Christ who championed these ideas.
Jesus Himself taught that men and women were to be treated as equals – an incendiary and dangerous teaching in that day – and it’s Christians who have continued to champion that cause. But without Christmas, there would be no radical teaching of Jesus to influence His followers.
Some of the greatest works of art are based on Scripture and biblical beliefs and have been performed by individuals heavily influenced by the teachings of Christ. But without Christmas, they wouldn’t exist.
Columbus, who was a follower of Christ, believed that his voyage of discovery was a fulfillment of the prophecies in Isaiah. But without Christmas, he would not have that faith and the discovery of the New World might have been delayed for years.
There are many other things that would have changed had there been no Christmas, but there is one thing that stands out among all the others as the most significant of all the other events that would have changed without Christmas.
If Christmas had not come, it would mean that Christ did not come.
God didn’t come to rescue us.
We’re on our own.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The Creator of the universe chose to come to earth and be born as a frail human. Why would He do that? What possible motive could He have had to leave the splendor of heaven and to enter into our story?
He did it to go through the pain and suffering of this life and to end his life in agony on a cruel Cross.
Without Christmas, there would be no Cross!
No Cross, there is no redemption! No offer for the forgiveness of all of our sins!
that whoever believes in him may have eternal life…. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:15, 17)
We needed Christmas!
We need forgiveness for our sinfulness, but without Christmas there’s no Cross.
Without the Cross, there’s no forgiveness.
Without Christmas, not only would there be no Cross, but there would be no borrowed tomb.
No Christmas means there’s no Easter.
No triumphant resurrection from the dead.
No resurrection from the dead, no hope of eternal life!
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
If there had been no Christmas, then all that is good and right in this world is gone. The Light of the world becomes gloom, darkness, desperation, and dread.
There is no heaven for us.
No hope of eternal life.
No one to lean on when life is overwhelming and the storms of life close in.
Without Christmas, there is no meaning to life.
Rescue is not coming.
This is all there is.
We are lost.
But Christmas did come.
Rescue came in the form of a tiny baby in a manger, born in an unremarkable village to insignificant people.
That baby grew into a man that lived a perfect life.
He died on a Cross so you and I can have forgiveness of all our sins.
He laid in a tomb for three days, but rose that first Easter Sunday morning, shattering the grip of death on humanity.
And Christmas changes everything!