day that changed the world
In December 1941, America’s
course and culture were changed by “a day that will live
in infamy.” Pearl Harbor reshaped U.S. history, and a darker
facet of globalism was revealed in the smoking hulks of once-proud
battleships. A terrifying day at Hiroshima in 1945 awakened fears
that would haunt the pioneer generations of the nuclear age. Men
harnessed the power of unthinkable destruction and demonstrated
the will to use it. A single day in Dallas in 1963 defined a generation.
The news of the assassination of President Kennedy rocketed around
the globe. A day in court in 1973 opened the floodgates for an
unending slaughter of the innocents when Roe v. Wade
made the mother’s womb the most dangerous place in America.
A day we remember as 9/11 changed the way we travel, the way we
live, the way we perceive our safety and ourselves.
We could all list pivotal
days of our lives that have changed our focus, our families, our
faith, and our fortunes for better and for worse. Add all the
significance of all of our days, our crowning achievements and
darkest moments, our great serendipities and frightful atrocities
— add together their impact from east to west, from creation
until the last stroke of your heart, and they cannot compare nor
even gain hearing when measured against the day that changed everything:
the day of Jesus’ birth.
Jesus Christ was born
in troubled times to a peasant class of a conquered race. He came
into a world dominated by a Roman Empire that sold all for glory
and power, only to be crushed under the weight of her foolish
purchase. At His birth Christ became a refugee. His childhood
was spent in the unsophisticated trappings of village life. He
came to a culture stripped of heroes. His homeland was tired from
years of skirmish and war. Ethnicity set brutal boundaries. Religious
leadership was corrupt and complacent. The Middle East was a caldron
ever threatening to boil over.
Not much has changed
since then in geopolitical terms. We stand at the precipice of
another war. The Middle East becomes increasingly violent. Ethnicity
continues to carve widening gaps. Cynicism is the one consistent
product of our great and costly deliberative bodies. Knowledge
multiplies at a staggering rate but wisdom hides in plain view.
Negotiated treaties and accords change nothing as the world moves
through one crisis after another.
Yet Jesus’ birth
He changed everything
because His power did not flow out of vast holdings, terrible
armaments or political consensus. His power flowed out of pure
love. In that alone, the world can offer nothing to compare. Search
the modern motive from the halls of Congress to the inner circles
of the United Nations and you won’t find the supreme motive
of selfless love. Jesus’ simple statement, “For God
so loved the world” (John 3:16), sets Him and His gospel
apart from every philosophy, initiative, government or creed.
In his last days, Napoleon
struggled to understand the nature of God’s power revealed
in Christ. In exile he wrote, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne
and I have founded empires. Upon force we founded them, and they
are gone. Jesus Christ alone has founded His Empire on love, and
at this hour millions of men would die for Him whom they have
Love is power unequaled
by bombs or bullets. Those who encountered Jesus at His birth
witnessed the birthing of love, and love changes everything it
Jesus changed everything
because He chose to come to earth and be “God with us”
(Matthew 1:23). In so doing, He set himself apart from every king
and ruler to rise since Adam left the Garden of Eden. Kings and
rulers set themselves apart. They fight against all challengers
to stand above all rivals. Though Jesus is above all powers and
kings, He went against the natural propensity to exclusiveness.
Rather, He rushed to embrace the common man. His offer is truly
unique among leaders. He offers every man and woman, boy and girl,
the gift of intimacy. He came down from the Throne Room of heaven,
investing every man with royalty and every child with hope.
I would certainly be
impressed should a United States president choose to come and
visit me. But what if that president were to say, “I really
enjoy being with you. As a matter of fact, I enjoy being here
with you so much, I’m relocating so that we can be together
every day.” That is what Jesus did when He made His entrance
in Bethlehem. Earthly leaders ascend to seize power. Jesus descended
to empower the least, the last, the lonely, the losers. Descending
power is original with Jesus, and that kind of power changes everything
Jesus changed everything
because He did not institute a new state nor drive a revolution,
and yet, of His government there shall be no end (Isaiah 9:7).
He did not establish a kingdom with walls and towers and moats
and armies. His kingdom is anchored in truth and planted deep
within the hearts of ordinary people. His currency is faith. Truly,
He stands apart from every leader, revolutionary, president or
king. He did not promote himself, but gave all glory to the Father.
He did not impose himself, but staked His claim on love alone.
He did not preserve himself, but gave himself freely for us all.
He came like no other. He lived like no other. He loved like no
other. He died like no other. He arose from the dead to blaze
a trail beyond this world for everyone who believes in His name
to follow. His revolution needs no seat of power here on earth
because His kingdom is ruled from heaven. Heaven is the home that
He has promised to all who believe in His name.
Jesus changed everything
by giving everyone a life-guiding purpose — to know God,
to make Him known, and to worship and enjoy Him forever. For thousands
of years spent casting about for purpose, mankind has nothing
to show. Philosophers are like dull-witted children fishing in
rain puddles; there is nothing there to be caught. In Christ we
find mission and destiny in serving God and others. We find joy
in His presence, strength in His Word, hope in His promises, peace
in His providence, meaning in His will, glory in His triumph,
and love that grows with every step we take with Him. Because
He came down to a Bethlehem manger, we have been given identity
Jesus changed everything
by opening up a way to God. My heart goes out to prisoners locked
into miniaturized environments and dead routines. Prisoners live
in a world without a way. They are confined until parole or death.
I can only imagine awakening every day to such a closed circle
of existence. Such was the case of humankind until Jesus came.
Trapped in a box canyon with no way out, history repeated itself
until hope died and dreams were forgotten. We would still be living
that way if Christ had not come down to man. At Bethlehem, God
opened a doorway through which all could escape the hopeless cycle
of the imprisoned soul. The door remains open this Christmas season.
All who believe in the Bethlehem miracle may enter.
The glory of Christmas
is that it yet lives and gives today. Jesus Christ was born to
a “no room” world. In Bethlehem, a manger and stable
proved to be adequate.
He comes to your heart
today asking for more than just a corner, more than just a part.
He asks for your all. When you give Him your heart, He will give
you new life. When you give Him your burdens, He will give you
His peace. When you give Him your trust, He will grant you His
promises. When you give Him your life, He will give you forever.
B. Crabtree is senior pastor of Calvary Church (Assemblies of
God) in Greensboro, N.C.
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