What if Christ came for the first time this Christmas?
December 23, 2012
The question of what Christ would be like if he or she entered the world now instead of 2,000 years ago is one I have often pondered. So much so, that the first novel I wrote dealt with this very issue.
It is not a simple inquiry. One of the hardest things for us to do with our religious traditions is to strip away centuries of interpretation to examine their essence.
The Jesus story is no different.
Persons immersed in the Christian tradition from childhood treat the remarkable claims of the Christmas story as ordinary.
Suppose you approach a young mother to be and ask her who the proud father-to-be is. “I’ve never been with a man. God is the father of my child,” she says.
Right. That’s the sort of person we say belongs in the nuthouse.
But Christians sing Away in Manger and never bat an eye.
That’s why I raised the question.
Suppose we were starting with a clean slate, if the Christmas story was set in the here and now.
Would the child be born in a stable? What race would he be? What nationality? Would the Christ be male or female?
Would he grow up to work with his hands as Jesus did? Would she be a brilliant scientist, a football player, a union worker in Detroit, a child of affluence or poverty?
This is not just an academic exercise. The way we answer these questions, the way we perceive how Christ would be in today’s world, drives our individual understanding of the faith.
A few years ago the motto What would Jesus Do? became all the rage. Bumper stickers appeared, books were written. But no one can begin to answer that question without going through this exercise.
If Christ came today for the first time in the United States would he participate in the political process, or would he remain outside it? Would he be a conservative, a liberal or an independent? Would he condone war or condemn it?
Of course the problem is that we take our own set of values, baptize them and parade them out as God’s values.
On the Sunday before Christmas, Advent Sunday, when we celebrate Christ’s coming do we celebrate a Savior who calls us to repentance or a conquering hero who wields the sword of our particular special interests?
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of legal thrillers. His book Last One Chosen featured a character that some have seen as a modern Christ figure.)