BY Pastor Joseph Burkhardt Ascension Lutheran Church:
Years ago there was a Christmas card entitled “If Christ had not come.” It tells the story of a pastor who fell asleep in his study early one Christmas morning and had a dream in which the Savior never came to the world of sinners.
In his dream he found himself looking through his home but there was no manger scene, no Christmas tree, no decorations, no Advent wreath, and no presents under the tree. He looked outside and saw no churches with crosses on the steeples or on the outside walls. He quickly looked at his library and to his horror, every book about Christ had disappeared from his shelves (I would not have a library if this were the case). Suddenly, there was a knock at his door for a request to come to the bedside of a dying member. At the bedside he said, “I have words of comfort for you.” But when he opened his Bible, the pages were blank. There were no promises; there were no words of comfort about the Savior who fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. There was no hope for his member in the hour of her death. He bowed his head in hopeless desperation and wept. Two days later he stood at the grave site to conduct the woman’s funeral. But he could offer no words of comfort–only ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the terrible end of everything and only the prospect of eternal suffering.
Suddenly, nearby choir voices woke him up with a start. Realizing what he was hearing filled his with extreme joy and peace. His choir was practicing for the Christmas service singing, “O Come all ye faithful, and behold Him, born the King of Angels.” Yes, to the pastor’s joy and comfort Jesus was born poor and lowly in a manger, born of our flesh so that through unity with His divinity he might conquer sin, death, and all our foes in that flesh and rise again to raise us to His divine glory, eternal life in heaven.
If Jesus had never come, you and I would still be in our sin. Life would indeed be a nightmare. All those evil thoughts you foster; all those harsh and unforgiving words spoken in anger against your spouse and others; all of those unkind feelings against those who have insulted you; all of your self centeredness and selfishness often bolstered with lies, would be counted against you. And all you and I would have to look forward to on Judgment Day is “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is the nightmare without Christ.
Dear souls, the little baby foretold by all the prophets in the Old Testament broke into human history and with His life shattered your sin, your death, the hell you deserve by taking on all of this in His innocent body so that He could give us in exchange, His forgiveness, His holy life, and His glory forever in heaven. At the center of the manger stands the cross on which Jesus bore your entire life of sin. This is not a dream. This is real history. Jesus came to take away our nightmare of guilt and give us the glorious reality of forgiveness.