We love because he first loved us~ 1st John 4:19 NIV
Three years ago I vowed in a dramatic fit of self-pity to never write another Christmas blog as long as I lived because my Christmas blogs have a history of less-than-spectacular readership and I like to write things I think people are actually going to read. However, I recently rethought my vow and concluded it’s high time I got over myself and give it another try.
This moment of clarity arrived as I was watching a community Christmas celebration. It hit me pretty much out of nowhere that Jesus’ first coming changed literally everything about life in the ancient world. Those changes in turn, paved the way for the freedoms and prosperity much of the western world enjoys today. I was also struck by how oddly trivial our Christmas celebrations tend to be in light of the impact the first coming of Jesus had on our world.
It’s not that I have anything against the way Americans celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas and everything Americans do to celebrate Christmas. That said, snowmen, sparkly lights, cookies cut into adorable shapes, and even traditional nativity scenes don’t exactly capture the magnitude of the impact that Jesus has had on our world. So, in honor of Jesus and all He accomplished, following are four seldom recognized ways Jesus’ first coming made our world a better place:
Jesus made it cool to care about the poor, sick and marginalized-
Until the coming of Jesus no one cared all that much about the sick and poor. Most believed the poor and sick were poor and sick because they were horrible people who had been deservedly cursed by the gods. As a result the poor and sick were viewed as profoundly unlikable. Little was done, outside the Jewish community to alleviate the suffering of the sick or to help the poor. Because Jesus cared deeply about the needs of the poor, sick and marginalized (Luke 12:33, Luke 14:13, Luke 10:30-3), so did His followers. From the earliest days of Christianity, charity (caring for the less fortunate) was a fundamental feature of Christian worship and outreach (Acts 6:1-7, Acts 9:36, Romans 15: 25-27, James 2:5-6). As Christianity took root in the Western world caring for the less fortunate became a natural part of life and something even non-religious people do. This was certainly not the case before Jesus came into the world.
Jesus gave children value-
Before Jesus came children were considered disposable in most societies (Jews were a notable exception). Abortion was a common practice, and live newborns were routinely placed in the foundations of buildings for luck. In Greece and Rome unwanted infants were simply left on rocky cliffs to die of exposure or thrown on garbage heaps. Attitudinal change towards children began with the coming of Jesus. Jesus loved children (Luke 18:15-17) and He was concerned with their physical and spiritual welfare (Matthew 18:6). Early Christians followed in the footsteps of Jesus and forbade the practices of abortion and infanticide among their members. Early Christians also made a practice of adopting the newborns (mostly little girls) that had been left to die of exposure. Over time, societies touched by Christianity enacted laws to protect children, but it was Jesus who forever changed the way we view the value of children.
Jesus gave women dignity-
Prior to the first coming of Jesus, women were, in virtually every society thought to be profoundly inferior to men in every possible way. Respectable women lived cloistered lives and simply did not interact with men they were not closely related to. Unlike other religious leaders of His day, Jesus frequently had meaningful conversations with all sorts of women (John 4, Luke 8:1-3, John 11). Jesus allowed women to receive the same training as men (Luke 10:38-41, Luke 8:1-3) and Jesus even entrusted a woman with passing on the message of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-12). This was a HUGE deal in a world where women were not considered legitimate witnesses in a court of law. After Jesus’ resurrection women were used in significant ways to build the early church. The Apostle Paul founded the Philippian church along with a handful of women (Acts 16). Pricilla along with her husband Aquila helped to plant churches and train believers in Corinth, Ephesus (Acts 18) and Rome (Romans 16:3). Women acted as deacons in the early church and were entrusted with significant tasks (Romans 16:1-2, 1st Timothy 3:11) and a woman (Junia) is even referred to as “outstanding among the Apostles” in Romans 16:7. Admittedly, throughout history some church leaders have not always valued women or the contributions of women. However, that does not change the fact that Jesus did. Jesus’ high view of women paved the way for many of the freedoms women enjoy today. If you doubt my word, take a look at the way women are treated in societies where Christianity has not made significant inroads. It’s a sharp and ugly contrast.
Jesus made it possible for people to actually change-
Before Jesus people could change their actions but not their hearts. An evil or an unbelieving person was just kind of stuck that way forever. Jesus’ coming changed that reality. Because, Jesus’ presence indwells the people who believe in Him, His presence gives us the power we need to change not just our actions but also our hearts. Because of Jesus we can be better people tomorrow than we are today.
That is something worth celebrating.