Christmas Day has come and gone and once again, the headlines of the holy-day season have been replete with stories of secular intolerance of Christ’s mass. Leading this year’s Festivus parade was the Kentucky school superintendent, Thomas Salyer, who—as you likely know—decided that the iconic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” play could only be performed at his school if Linus’ seminal reading of the gospel of Luke were removed. In other words, a drama commending Jesus Christ could only be performed if the script were expunged of any reference of Jesus Christ. Forget etymology. Forget history. Forget logic. Forget common sense. Christmas could only be celebrated if it was Christ-less.
Setting aside Mr. Salyer’s apparent disregard for Socratic reasoning, it might be interesting to consider his theory of human history and the consequences of his premise of a world where Christ had not been born. What would life look like today if it weren’t for Christmas; if as Thomas Cahill said, the “ideas and acts” of Christmas had not been “hurled across the centuries and around the world” some 2000 years ago?
Whether you’re a believer in the theology of Christmas or simply an open-minded and honest historian, you must confess the impact of Christmas’ sociology and cosmology on the world. The fact of the matter is that the story of the birth of Christ has dramatically changed humanity’s understanding of life and the way we live it. From Saul of Tarsus to the Emperor Constantine, from Wilberforce to Whitfield, and from Chesterton to Lewis, millions of lives have been turned from deception and selfishness to compassion and love because of Christmas.
Greek and Roman cultures stopped the practice of child “exposure” because of Christmas. The Celtics and Prussians abandoned human sacrifice because of Christmas. Sexual fidelity and respect for marriage was normalized in the Roman Empire because of Christmas. Women were no longer considered mere property and/or chattel because of Christmas. Compassion for the sick and the dying during the great plagues of Europe took place because of Christmas. Charity for the poor, for orphans, and for the old became expected during the Industrial Revolution because of Christmas. Hospitals, child labor laws, education, economic freedom, the dignity of labor, civil rights and racial equality all were established because of Christmas. Slavery was abolished and the sanctity of all human life was celebrated because of Christmas.
Christmas changed the world! We are told in the ancient book written by Matthew that “His name shall be called Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. A brief look back at history tells us that, indeed, this is so true. Christmas not only saves us from our own sins, but the “ideas and acts” of Christmas have saved us from the sins of millions around us; millions who—prior to the birth of Christ—would have ignored us, used us, oppressed us, enslaved us, or even killed us on the altars of their governments and their gods.
Harry Truman said it well: “Down the ages from the first Christmas through all the years [since], mankind in its weary pilgrimage through the changing world has been… strengthened by the message of Christmas… The religion which came to the world heralded by the song of the angels… remains today the world’s best hope …”