In the fourth century the introduction of Christmas was meant to make Jesus’ birth relevant to people in that world. The competition was hot, however, because the seven day festival of Saturnalia in late December had been around for a long time, and its festivities were extremely popular. But by absorbing many of its traditions and extending Christmas festivities to twelve days, the Roman church managed to win a lot of people over to Jesus’ birth instead.
It was an odd situation, though, using Saturnalia customs to get the Christmas message across, but that’s always been the challenge for Christians: How do we make Jesus’ birth relevant in the world we’re in?
How, for instance, is Jesus’ birth meaningful and relevant to people living in a war zone, where missiles are exploding, there’s no power, no water, no facilities for washing, no proper medical help, and life is hell? And how does Jesus’ birth reverberate in the minds of people who’ve been forced by inflation to choose between eat or heat? Or to people fearful of losing their home because they can’t afford the mortgage payments, or to those who fear the repercussions of Covid on their kids and ageing parents.
And how does Jesus’ birth offer any comfort to those living in regimes that believe medically assisted suicide is a viable substitute for proper care? Or that closing down farms is going to help feed people. Or that climate change necessitates urgent measures that only cause more suffering, not less. Where’s the relevance in Jesus’ birth in all those situations?
But there is a point of relevance, in that Jesus was born into a world just like ours. Psychopathic leaders, brutal diseases and demonic forces were wrecking the lives of adults and children in his day too. But Jesus arriving as a human on this planet was an eye-opener. He sent demonic forces packing. He brought peace and joy to people with chronic ailments. And those who saw the power he had and turned to him in their desperation, experienced his love and power personally.
He opened eyes to his relevance all right. And he backed it up with a challenge too, when he said, “Come to me and you will find rest for your souls.” It was brilliant. And so simple. To prove his relevance, all anyone had to do was look to him and trust him, and he would take care of their deepest needs.
Which makes Jesus’ birth relevant in any age, because the same challenge applies. It could add some much needed relevance to Christmas in our world too.
One thought on “How is Jesus’ birth relevant in a world like ours? ”
Our world is a world of contrasts and opposites. We cannot know light without first knowing darkness. When the world is the darkest, the light shines the brightest. Jesus came into a world that was the darkest in the age of Israel’s history. And he continues to come into a world of darkness to every corner of the earth since, as more and more people begin to “see” Him. What a wonderful revelation that is!
“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined….
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NKJV)