It is no secret that the Bible has some of the best stories in all of literature, and none so compelling as the story of Christmas. Forget the religious implications for a minute and just revel in the narrative. God looking down on the world He had created in love gone so far astray that even the people He had chosen out of all the peoples on the earth had begun to forget His name, and even His purpose. They had lost a kingdom that under Solomon had extended its influence to Egypt and Persia, through Arabia and Syria. Its writings and teachings so full of wisdom and sound good sense that they would influence all the world’s religions. Now they were reduced to a mere outpost of the most powerful empire the world had ever known, an empire that ruled not in wisdom and justice, but by the exercise of ruthless power.

Into this world, so troubled and torn, God Himself appeared in human form, not as a ruler to contest earthly power, but as a child of neither wealth nor power, born to a woman betrothed, but not yet wed to a man that was not the father of her child. Can you imagine a situation less promising? Yet from this Child arose the greatest moral teaching the world has ever heard. In His name great enterprises were established, scientific discoveries made, schools and hospitals were built, humanitarian aid flowed to the needy, slavery was abolished, not only in the Roman Empire scarcely two hundred years after Christians were accepted as Roman citizens, but again in the West after it had been reintroduced by Arab slavers.

In His name missionaries went out, not armed with swords and spears, but with knowledge and compassion, seeking to temper the worst excesses of mankind and bring healing and hope where there was poverty and despair. Just imagine what would have happened in India if Gandhi weren’t so taken with the teachings of Christ, or Black America if it wasn’t guided by the godly Rev. Martin Luther King, or South Africa if Mandela hadn’t been ruled by the Spirit of God, but the spirit of vengeance. If Christ hadn’t entered the world, what hope would there be in the world?

For this reason Christians everywhere celebrate the goodness of God in entering human history, not to judge, but to offer freedom from the oppression of wicked men. Wicked men like Herod, threatened by the arrival of Christ, sought to kill Him as a child. Men equally wicked still seek to kill Him, or at least remove Him from public love and consideration. To those we say ‘Merry Christmas,’ and offer to you the same advice that Gamaliel gave to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5) when Peter and John were hauled before them, “Keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan [the spread of Christianity] or this work [telling others the good news] is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it.”

The teachings of Christ have not changed, but our understanding of them continues to mature and grow as new cultures and communities interact with its truths and reveal new insights. Christianity’s explosive growth in South America, Africa and Asia has deepened our understanding of the universality of its message. The faith has weathered the devastating wars of atheistic socialism, the upheavals of the sexual revolution and the destructive effects of unrestrained capitalist greed, and it has only become deeper and broader with each challenge. This little child born in Bethlehem packed an enormous punch. Isn’t it time you considered His claims to deity more seriously?