These are dark times in the world. Evil and hate and corruption are everywhere. Terrorists shoot up concert halls, blow up aeroplanes and destroy lives. Politicians spew hate and bile, and the internet is a cesspit of anger and destructive language. Meanwhile, even love itself is debased through confusion with sexual gratification. Things that God created as good are corrupted and debased and confused. God, or even goodness, seems far away.
Whatever one believes about God, or theology, or metaphysics, we know that the world is in bad shape. It needs salvation of some sort. There needs to be hope somehow and somewhere. And we know that this hope cannot come from mere humanity – our humanity is what got us into this mess. What we need is divinity, one way or another. We need to reconnect with that part of ourselves that is pure and good and superhuman. We see this idea even in atheist philosophers like Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Rand. But in all these cases of seeking to make gods out mortals, humanity has ended up even less divine and even less human. We are helpless to solve the corruption of the world by ourselves.
It is into this darkness, the Winter Solstice of the world, right when we cannot see or find Him, that God comes. And not just invisibly, or metaphorically, or intellectually, or even merely spiritually, but He takes on human flesh from a human woman, a lowly temple acolyte, and becomes one of us. We cannot be divine, so God becomes human. He becomes a little baby, real, tangible and present in the world as the God-Man. And in doing so, He begins His work to restore the world. Christ is born! He is here! He has arrived! Our saviour has arrived! There is Hope in all the hopelessness of the world!
I believe that this is why Christmas is so universal and so appealing to the world. Of course Easter/Pascha is more important – what could be more important than Christ rising from the dead and defeating death? But there is sorrow there too – Christ must first die. Christmas, however, has no downside – a baby is born, there is peace on earth and goodwill to all men! Anyone can get behind that – Christians, atheists, and anyone else in between.
As Stephen Colbert, for all his faults, once sang, “There are much worse things to believe in.” Christmas is something that can be true for everyone, even if not everyone thinks it’s true.
I’ve seen a lot of crap online lately, from people saying Christmas is just a crude copy of pagan myths (why isn’t it the fulfilment of them?), that it’s just an appropriation of pagan festivals (it isn’t, or the Church would have a Summer Solstice substitute as well – it doesn’t), that it was “invented” by the Roman Catholics (it was always celebrated one way or another), and that the date of December 25th is arbitrary (it isn’t, it’s calculated from the Bible at fifteen months from Zachariah’s vision at Yom Kippur, and was finally universally adopted by the Church in the late 4th Century). Christmas is real. God walks with men again. Christ is Born! Glorify Him! And even if you don’t believe that, you can believe in the Hope that Christmas brings. It’s a Hope that surely has a better chance of saving this sad corrupt world than anything else.
May everyone be blessed this Holy Nativity!