Why do we celebrate Christmas? Because it’s the pivot point when the world changed direction. When Satan lost control. When Heaven began its slow but steady invasion of earth. When souls began to populate Heaven. When God’s original plan of relationship with humanity was brought back into play. When the empires, kingdoms and narcissists of the worlds political systems lost control of the planets destiny. When God became Emmanuel, God with us. When Satan lost.
Or is it just a bunch of outdated theology, a quaint piece of cultural driftwood in the ocean of modern tech and woke Western values?
No. It’s the first one; and let me tell you a story to remind you of the power of Christmas.
It was 1993 and I was in the remote Denewa Valley in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. There I met an old man called Willy. No surname. Willy and the other locals told me the story that changed their valley forever. Denewa had been a cargo-cult valley and very resistant to the message of liberation in Christ. Only a handful of the 3,000 locals were interested. Sexual license was rife. Then, while working up the hill in his garden, Willy took very sick and died suddenly.
Now when I say dead, I mean DEAD. These people see death all the time. They know what it feels, smells, and looks like. It happens in their homes. Their kids die. Its familiar.
Immediately the word went out that Willy had died and about three hundred people rushed up the hill to his garden hut to begin the afternoons wailing and screaming before he was to be buried that evening. This is the tropics, you’ve only got four hours. The screaming was deafening. I know because I watched the same scene unfold on the Trobiand Islands the next year after visiting Denewa. It’s like listening to a jet screaming at full throttle. The older women are the professionals! It’s very physical and scary for a westerner to watch.
But among the crowd were two men I would later meet, Robin and David. David had met Jesus in Port Moresby and was the first to bring the Gospel back to the valley. Robin was my student in my small bark hut Bible college about five years later. Both were very spiritual men. They pushed their way to the body and began to pray. David saw a vision of Willy coming back down a set of stairs to earth and told Robin. They both prayed and prayed for him to come back.
About three hours after Willy died, he suddenly sad bolt upright and asked for water. Three hundred people froze on the spot. This was not in the script. Robin saw to Willy’s needs while David immediately began to explain what had happened and why. Three hundred people became followers of Jesus on the spot and the church was born. Years later when I visited the valley the church was going well and the leaders, Robin, Paulus and David were shepherding the people as best they could. My job was to encourage what God had started.
Willy told me he thought he had been dreaming when he woke up. He “dreamt” that he was in the middle of a field and two armies were careening toward him, after him. Then he woke up and asked for water.
This is why Jesus came to us. This is why we celebrate Christmas.