When a perennially bad sports team begins to achieve an unexpected level of success, one or more of the team’s faithful fans in the stadium can usually be found holding up a sign that reads: We believe.
For these fans, who had grown accustomed to failure and disappointment after many years of losing seasons, a glimmer of hope suddenly appears. At that moment, all is forgotten, a new chapter begins to unfold, a ray of light emerges in the darkness, a new day dawns.
This is essentially the story of Christmas. Christians believe that through the historical event of Jesus Christ’s birth (and subsequent death and resurrection) humanity’s “losing seasons” have been transformed into permanent victory over sin and death.
Whatever our particular religious beliefs, human beings are wired to believe in something that explains our existence and the meaning of our lives. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (CCC 27) For this reason, human beings have always sought wisdom and truth.
Since the quest for God is universal and has always existed, it is far too simplistic to suggest that faith and religion are mere figments of our imaginations. Such an argument is analogous to saying that breathing is a conscious process that is deliberately produced by our minds, rather than an involuntary function. Like breathing, the search for God is part of our nature.
We can be tempted to think that our search for God depends entirely on us, that we need to climb a proverbial ladder to find him. The rungs of this ladder are often various abstractions, such as our own thoughts and feelings, the musings of a particular individual, or new scientific theories. But it is impossible to find God merely through mental gymnastics, because God’s essence is far beyond anything our finite minds could ever conceptualize or comprehend.
Christians believe that God thus approached us and revealed himself to us through the incarnation, whereby he took on human flesh through the birth of his son, Jesus. For this reason, Jesus is referred to as Emmanuel (i.e., “God with us”) when his birth is foretold in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament when the prophecy is fulfilled. By coming in human form, God made himself recognizable and understandable to us.
Thus, Christmas is not based on an abstraction, but on an indisputable historical event that is tangible and concrete: a person born in a manger in Bethlehem, who walked the earth for 33 years, and who, unlike any other religious leader, asserted that he is the son of God. While Jesus’ claim of divinity and other aspects of his life are constantly being investigated and debated by scholars, there is no dispute that he lived.
Christians believe that Jesus is indeed the son of God. More than that, we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection overcame evil, destroyed the power of death, and earned for us eternal salvation.
These beliefs are the source of Christmas joy for Christians around the world. By using some of our time this Christmas season to reflect on the birth of Jesus, we can experience this joy at an even deeper level and be like those sports fans who visibly and exuberantly proclaim: We believe.
Zach Krajacic, of Lancaster, is vice president at 101.7 FM The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network, based in Williamsville. He oversees eight stations throughout the northeastern United States as well as iCatholicRadio, a free app heard throughout the world on mobile devices.