- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2000

Bethlehem will not teem with worshipers this year, as it usually does during the Christmas season. The little town where Jesus was born is located within Palestine territory, and has become a flash point for hate-fueled gun fights and acts of terrorism. It is a dangerous place to be.

Access is difficult to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity built over the grotto, where it is believed that Jesus was born of Mary. The few who seek to get there must leave tour buses and walk a nervous 100 yards across an Israeli military checkpoint to the Palestinian side. They can then board Palestinian buses or walk the remaining 2 miles to the center of town.

But while access to the place where it all began is severely limited, access to the extraordinary meaning of Christmas is there for the asking. The spirit of Christmas is not a place; it is a condition of the human soul.

Christmas is the day on which Christians celebrate the birth of their savior. For many believers, that day 2,000 years ago is easily the most significant day in the history of the human race.

There is nothing complicated about the reason. Jesus Christ came to rescue humanity from itself and from mortality. One of the most simple and most eloquent descriptions of what the life of Jesus is all about came from Indian political and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. He described Him this way: “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

Christians are not popular in America these days. Jesus was not a very popular figure either, particularly toward the last few years of the time He spent on Earth. His message threatened too many people, just as it does today.

He was the truth they feared. His presence gave the lie to the self-serving illusions around which they had built their lives. He was the light which illumined dark corners and recesses, exposing the black sins they sought to hide.

He was the pure mirror which reflected back to them the image of the evil they had become. His very existence was a threat to their lifestyles and their rationalizations. They could not change or corrupt Him, so they killed Him — not because He was guilty but because He was innocent.

When Pontius Pilate asked the people in the crowd who to spare from crucifixion, a criminal or an innocent man, they chose to let the criminal go free. They chose Barabbas. They still do.

Centuries have passed. Nothing has changed. Those who are threatened by purity and virtue are still trying to wipe away every vestige, symbol and sign of Him. The fear, even the loathing, of His message is why the celebration of Christmas gets more pagan each succeeding year.

It was all said in John 3:19-20: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”

Sophisticates make fun of religion and religious people, but if their car broke down at night on the other side of town, in a strange neighborhood, they would, given the alternatives, be thrilled if the first to come by was a born-again Christian.

Despite all the calumny and harassment, Christians are generally happy, well-adjusted, and uniquely unconfused about the purpose of life. They are not confounded by arrogant intellectual elitism, which asserts that human existence is a meaningless event in an unending, mindless flow of meaningless events. They are unimpressed by the pompous, humanistic idea that we are born out of nothingness, to live and die only to disappear back into nothingness.

Christians know this kind of thinking makes absolutely no sense at all. They see this dark rhetoric for what it is: the verbal flailings of disoriented and frightened people who do not have philosophic handles on themselves or the universe in which they live.

Christians believe there are no throwaways in life. Everything matters. In the course of time, with the perspective of eternity, everything is reconciled, every detail attended, every wrong righted, every kindness thanked, every wound healed, every hurt kissed, every love requited, every sin atoned, every life vindicated, every loss recovered, every loved one found.

Life has meaning. The universe is rational. Hallelujah! Merry Christmas!

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