When reviewing some personal items earlier today, I again read several lines by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). In “The Contest in America” published in the Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of April 1862, Mill addressed some of the public thinking during the Civil War in the United Sates. The article included Mill’s famous lines: “. . .war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.. . . A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
You may wonder what Mill’s statement has to do with Christmas. I suggest that Mill is pointing to the “why?” of Christmas.
Christmas celebrations over the past 2000 years have taken a multitude of forms and practices. Certainly we are far removed from the first Christmas!! Consequently, we do well to ponder why celebrate the birth of Jesus. We harm ourselves if we fail to ask the deep question of why the Son of God took on flesh in the first place. Mill points to the answer, even if what he said was in the context of the deadly War between the States in the 1860’s.
Jesus, the incarnated Son of God, came to earth to take part in a war. It was the war between good (God) and evil (Satan). It was a war “in a good cause”, that of freeing humanity from the bonds of moral evil and restoring humanity to God’s family. This war ultimately cost the innocent Jesus his life, as he bore the “ugly” murder of crucifixion.
Jesus, born to die – it is ugly. But, as Mill states, it would have been even more ugly if Jesus would have thought that nothing was worth His death!!! Although not referring to Jesus when he wrote it, Mill’s point is appropriate. If Jesus would have cared more for His personal safety than the spiritual freedom of His murderers and their sympathizers, He would have been a miserable creature “with no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” But, Jesus was free. He was noble. He knew that something was worse than dying in the war for humans’ salvation – It would have been morally worse for Him to not die!!
This, my friends, is taking us deep into the Why of Christmas. The original Christmas was the necessary first step to His victory over what is even worse than dying for the sins of others, that of not dying for the sins of others!!!