Walter Russell Mead is doing an extended and interesting disquisition on the meaning of Christmas. And I don’t just mean “Baby Jesus!” I mean all the beliefs and all the promises that are wrapped up in, and extend outward from, the birth of baby Jesus. Here are some links:
And here’s a taste:
The place to start is with the idea of God: why do Christians and so many other people believe in an invisible ruler and creator of the universe – and then how does the Christian idea of God differ from the others? We’ll go on from there to see how the Christmas story makes sense to Christians in the light of these special beliefs.
Whether we look at Christianity or at other religions, the idea of God doesn’t come from the realms of science or philosophy. That is, most people don’t believe in God because they work through a long philosophical argument. Most people haven’t taken classes in formal logic to evaluate the claims and counter-claims of various world philosophies before making their choice. They have not been slowly driven to the logical necessity of a Prime Mover in the universe, or followed St. Anselm’s argument that existence is a necessary attribute of the greatest being that our minds can conceive.
But neither do they believe in God because they are scientifically ignorant. They don’t believe in God because they think that God makes the thunder clap and the rain fall. They don’t believe in God because they’ve never heard of the theory of evolution and need an explanation for why the physical universe works the way it does.
Most people believe in God because they feel that life means something.
If Christians were simply celebrating the birth of a moral teacher on Christmas, there would be little controversy about it.
But that’s not how most Christians see the baby in the manger. They don’t think he is a symbol; they don’t think he’s a messenger. They think he is the real thing. He is the meaning of meaning, the truth made flesh, the only begotten Son of God. As a grown man, he would tell people that “I and the Father are one.” Most of the people we call Christians believe he was right, and speak of the baby Jesus and the man he grew to be as one of the Three Persons of God.