Traditional Christians celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus, the man whom they believe God sent to earth to teach, be crucified and resurrected, thereby vicariously saving us from our sins and ensuring us a place in heaven if we believe in him.
The majority of people in the world adhere to other religions and don’t believe this, though many accept that Jesus was indeed a great spiritual teacher. Likewise many Christians love Jesus and his teachings but don’t accept the resurrection and vicarious atonement. Yet, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, there are some good reasons to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Jesus was not the first spiritual teacher to teach love, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. But for some reason, his ministry caught on, spread around the Mediterranean, then to Europe and eventually the New World. Why Jesus and not someone else?
First of all his teachings were powerful and radical. They got people’s attention and made them think. With an initial boost from the Apostle Paul, Christianity gradually gained acceptance around the Mediterranean in the centuries after Jesus’ death. By far the biggest boost to Christianity came when Emperor Constantine declared it the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. This institutionalized Christianity and gave it unprecedented credibility.
Why did all this happen? Because Jesus’ teachings appealed to the higher part of the human psyche and major elements of civilization had reached the point where they were willing to accept and adopt them. In the long journey of the evolution of the human psyche a tipping point between our lower, animal nature and our higher, spiritual nature had finally been reached by a critical mass of people. Jesus and his powerful teachings were at the right place at the right time in human history.
Although many of us are not aware of it, Jesus’ teachings have had a profound impact on the development of Western civilization. His emphasis on morality has played a huge role in the ability of Western society to provide such a high standard of living for its people. The Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is the very essence of Jesus’ teachings and has served as a guiding light throughout the Western world.
So whether or not you believe in the resurrection and vicarious atonement, there is a good reason to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Anyone who facilitated the reaching of the moral tipping point for an entire civilization the way Jesus did deserves our honor, respect, reverence, appreciation and remembrance. Reaching this milestone is certainly something to celebrate.
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