March 30, 2018 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
In the timeless Christmas movie classic "It's A Wonderful Life," the frustrated and discouraged George Bailey wishes that he had never been born. The spark of his dreams of world travel have been snuffed out by his dedication to duty in a small town. He is foisted into running his father's savings and loan along with his hapless uncle Billy. Uncle Billy blunders and the savings and loan is about to be swallowed up by the ruthless Mr. Potter, played perfectly by Lionel Barrymore (great-uncle of actress Drew Barrymore). George's guardian angel, Clarence, saves him from suicide and shows George what life would be like if he had never been born. George had done this small town a world of good and it would be in a world of hurt without him.
What if Jesus Christ had never been born? The late John Lennon engaged a similar thought with his 1971 hit song "Imagine." Lennon answers the question in the first verse of his song:
Imagine there's no heaven It's easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today...
If Jesus Christ had not come into this world to be born, suffer, and die on a cross for the sins of His people, there is nothing else but to live for today. Living for today is just another way of saying get as much pleasure as you can now because tomorrow you die. It is really another way of saying you have no tomorrow. Indeed, there is no hope for the future, and no meaning for the present.
The Bible does not skirt the issue. It presents the incarnation of Jesus Christ as an historical fact. Yet, it engages the issue with the resurrection of the dead. Apparently, some in Corinth were denying a resurrection of the dead. The Apostle Paul responded, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost." (1 Corinthians 15: 13-18) The Apostle adds, "If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'" (1 Corinthians 15:32b)
If Christ did not come to rescue His people from their sins, there is simply no hope. The future is a dreadful thing to be feared. The inevitability of death means your time is running out like the sand in an hourglass. Trips to the gym, hair dye, facelifts, good nutrition and the like are
no fountain of youth. They will not stop time from marching on. Born you are, and so die you must. There is nothing but doom in a tomb.
The very good news is that there is hope! Christ has been born! The Bible states, "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' --which means, 'God with us.' When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." (Matthew 1:18-25)
In the incarnation, Jesus the Son of God united Himself with man and united Himself with a human nature. He was sinless and not tainted by original sin. He came to die for us so that everyone who truly believes in Him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:16-21)
Did you catch that? "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." That is why people spend time imagining there is no heaven, and, more importantly, no hell. Former President Jimmy Carter observed that in many of the 125 countries of the world that he has visited, John Lennon's song "Imagine" is used almost equally with their national anthems. Living for today is their way of life. Do whatever, whenever, wherever, with whomever. Many vainly hope that Christ has not come, because if He has, there are severe implications of their facing Him at the final judgment.
Most times, the presenting issue is not the real issue. The issue is not whether Christ has come to this world. For the Bible plainly states that Jesus Christ has come. The testimony of human history is that the world has been profoundly changed for the better as a result. Mark Twain once quipped, "Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but, as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those that I do understand." The issue is whether you believe on the Christ that has come. Do you put your faith and trust in Jesus? For, "without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and
only Son." (John 3:18) Matthew Henry remarks, "There's none so blind as those who will not see."
There are many turning points in life: the spouse that you marry, the job that you work, the place where you live. There is none greater than this: What will you do with Jesus Christ? Will you reject Him and vainly try to explain Him away? Will you ignore Him and foolishly hope that He does not exist? Or will you receive Him as your Savior and Lord and enter the hope, love and eternal life that He has prepared for those He loves? Your future hangs in the balance. Maybe things are going well for you today. You think that you're a "good person" and that is all you need. Thomas Watson said it well, "The seeming peace a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness but the ignorance of his danger."
May you receive the greatest gift this Christmas season that a person can ever receive. May Christ be born in your heart.