If Jesus Had Not Come

Empty manger
An Alternative History of Christmas

Christmas—the day God’s son entered the stream of human history and changed forever mankind’s destiny. Every year we read Bible verses and sing songs to celebrate this wondrous event.

But what if Jesus never came?

What if, instead of announcing Christ’s birth, the angel Gabriel appeared in the skies over Bethlehem and delivered the following announcement:

 Greetings, you who once were highly favored.
This is what the sovereign Lord says:

In the past I spoke to your forefathers through the prophets.
I revealed myself to those
who did not seek me;
to a nation that did not call out my name, I said, "Here am I, here am
All day long I held out my hands to you,
and you turned away to pursue your own

Because you broke our covenant, its prophecies will not be fulfilled.
Those living in the land of the
shadow of death will not see a great light;
for to you, a child will not be born, a son not
The One who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of
Peace will not appear
as foretold by the prophets. 

From this day forth, God will no longer hear your prayers.

He is not your God; you are not His people.

And the angel was gone.

The sky was empty.

And the people sang a new song:

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
And thinking of their home,
The vigil of the night wore on,
They sat there all alone.

If Jesus had not come.

Salzburg, Austria
December, MMDLXXI a.u.c.

On a dark winter night, Joseph Mohr reflects on the bitter Napoleonic Wars that have ravaged the European countryside with a staggering death toll. Taking pen to paper, he writes: 

Silent night, darkest night,
Filled with fear, there’s no light.
God’s in heaven, not on earth;
How we long for a Savior’s birth.
Sleep without dreams of peace.
Sleep without dreams of peace.

If Jesus had not come.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December, MMDCXXI  a.u.c.

Philips Brooks, a university professor of philosophy, reminisces about a trip he made to Bethlehem three years earlier, where he’d hoped to find a measure of peace following four bitter years of civil war in America and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln who, for Brooks, embodied the hope of the nation.

Lamenting the unfulfilled prophecy of an obscure Jewish prophet named Micah, Brooks composes a dirge.

O little town of Bethlehem, how ill we see thee lie.
Above they deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by;
And in thy dark streets gloomy, where evil wins the fight,
The pain and fears of all the years, has reigned supreme tonight.

If Jesus had not come.

Cologny, Switzerland
September, MMDCCV a.u.c.

A papyrologist hired by antiquities collector Martin Bodmer hunches over a recently acquired manuscript discovered in Jabal Aba Mana, Egypt. The acquisition includes copies of books V and VI of Homer’s Iliad; three comedies by the Greek dramatist Menander; and p66, a manuscript of questionable value containing the writings of an obscure Galilean fisherman named John. Like so many Jewish writers of his time, the fisherman’s discourse is a fatalistic view of life. The papyrologist translates the third chapter, the sixteenth verse:

For God did not love the world enough to send his only son,
so all mankind will perish and never know everlasting life.

If Jesus had not come.

Jerusalem, Judaea
5 Nisan 3821

Saul, one of the greatest post-covenant Rabbis, leads a Jewish uprising against Rome in an attempt to re-establish the throne of David on the abandoned temple mount. In a circular letter sent to synagogues throughout the Roman empire he describes the roads of Jerusalem lined with crosses bearing the bodies of martyrs to the cause. He issues a call for Jews everywhere to pledge their lives in support of the new kingdom of David:

Your attitude should not be that of God’s Son
who, being in the very nature of God
considered equality with God something to be grasped.
And He made himself something,
not taking the form of a servant,
not being made in human likeness;
He was not found in appearance of a man,
refusing to humble himself,
especially death on a cross.

If Jesus had not come.

Jerusalem, Judea
24 Iyyar 3841

A worldly tax collector named Matthew—hated by the Jews, loathed by his Roman employers—teaches his apprentice the realities of life in a God-forsaken world, telling him life’s only hope lies in the accumulation of wealth.

As you go into all the world
and see despair among the nations,
do not be swayed by the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit;
teach your sons to live only for themselves.
For lo, God will never be with us,
not even at the end of the age.

If Jesus had not come.

But Jesus did come! If only for a moment, savor the greatest announcement mankind has ever heard:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David,
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Gloria in excelsis Deo