Why all this fuss over the birth of a child in a small, insignificant part of the Roman Empire? What difference does Jesus make? To start with, His birthday marks the division of human history into B.C., before Christ, and A.D., Anno Domini, after Christ.
His life, His teachings have caused millions to mold their minds and model their lives on His. Belief in His death and resurrection have resulted in His being called “Lord and Christ” by the largest group of worshippers in the world.
Even some who do not call themselves Christians admit his impact on the world. The Hindu Holy Man and Indian nationalist, M. Gandhi once described Jesus as a man who was completely innocent, offered Himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including His enemies, and became a ransom for the world. Gandhi described Jesus’ life and death as a perfect act.
As far back as the first century, the difference Jesus made was attested to by those who did not believe in Him. The great Jewish historian, Josephus, once wrote, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, a doer of startling deeds. A teacher of people who receives the truth with pleasure. He gained a following among the Jews and among many of Greek origin. Even when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned Him to the cross, those who loved Him did not cease to do so.”
And to this day the tribe of Christians named after Him has not died out. And so, on the cusp of His birthday, we, the current members of the tribe of Christians, are challenged yet again to consider what difference does Jesus make. In the way I live, in the way I love, in the friends I choose, in the decisions I make, has this Jesus made any difference in the way I treat others? In the quantity and quality of my service to those who lack so much not only in material goods, but emotional and spiritual support.
Some 50 years ago a lay theologian, Frank Sheed, warned against what he called a dimming of Christ suggesting that Christ is an eclipse. There are so many other things that we run after, so many other things that take up our time, Sheed urged Christians to return to a practical faith, a simple faith. One informed by the mind of Christ. The question he was asking was, could anyone tell by the way I live that Christ makes a difference in my life?
Jesus did not set an example and leave us to follow. He did not reveal the truth about God, about life, and about ourselves, and leave us to live it. He never left us: Jesus lives in us now. He is Emmanuel, God with us, God in us. He comes to us at every mass.
So, again I pose the question, what difference does Jesus make? All the difference in the world, but only if we let Him. God gave us free will. We can say yes or no to Christ.
We can say there is no room at the inn, and close the door, or like the shepherds and the wise men, we can open up our hearts, our minds, and our lives, and re-invite Him in. Then we will know. Then we will feel the difference Jesus makes.
The Christ child is not physically with us, but like the three wise men, people still seek Him. The question is, will they find Him in us? If Jesus is to be born into our world today, it must be through us. We must be the beam of light in the midst of darkness, a ray of hope in times of despair.
We all belong to that Tribe called Christian. And all of us, male and female, during Advent, are pregnant with anticipation of the coming of Jesus. We must carry Him to those around us. Jesus wants to be part of us, of all of us. Born a long time ago, Jesus is still the promise we share with others now in celebration of His birth, and every day throughout every year.