Christmas reflections: The unimaginable world without Jesus | Eastern North Carolina Now



Guest Columnist, Adam Dooley
Christian Action League
December 7, 2023

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like had you never been born? Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, grapples with this question through the eyes of a fictional man named George Bailey. When the building and loan banker finds himself at the end of his rope on Christmas Eve, he concludes that everyone would be better off if he had never lived. Then, while standing on a bridge, contemplating his existence, an unlikely turn of events prevents George from ending his life.

The character’s guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, appears onscreen to give the struggling family man an opportunity to see what his town, Bedford Falls, would be like without his investment in the lives of so many people there. Not only is the quaint community unappealing apart from the influence of one man, but the city is also a renamed slum called Pottersville.

Remarkably, every person that George Bailey loved suffered greatly without his presence and influence. His mother ran a boarding house as a bitter old woman. His wife was a lonely librarian. His Uncle Billy made his home in an insane asylum. His war hero brother did not live past childhood and every soldier he saved in World War II died on the battlefield. Overall, the people of Pottersville were more harsh, intolerant, and criminal than the citizens of Bedford Falls. The world without George Bailey was not a pretty picture.

The inspiring tale reminds us of the power that one life wields as well as the significance of the smallest deeds. But I want to ask a greater question with consequences unapparelled on the big screen. What if Jesus Christ had never been born? How would the world be different? How would your life be different? Is a wonderful life even possible apart from Him?

Thankfully, the Apostle John answers these questions in the first chapter of his gospel. Admittedly, the world would be a much different place in numerous ways had Jesus never been born (and none for the better!). Let’s focus on one glaring difference, though, laid down in these verses.

Without Jesus, it would be impossible to receive the grace of God. Referring to God’s Son as the Word, John reveals that Jesus is the eternal God (John 1:1) who made the heavens and earth (John 1:3). Incredibly, the only begotten of the Father became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14a). And, in His goodness and love toward sinners, Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14b).

Grace, by definition, is our receiving what we do not deserve from the Lord. His grace is poignant with forgiveness. Jesus came, not to leave us in our waywardness, but to rescue us from it. He saves those who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). He sets free those held captive by wickedness (Isa. 61:1). He cleanses sinners like you and me, leaving us whiter than snow (Psa. 51:7). Truly, through Christ alone we find grace upon grace (John 1:16)!

We should also note, however, that the grace which Jesus offers always comes by way of truth (John 1:14b). For some, such a statement goes without saying. Yet, we dare not overlook the realization that though the Light of God’s Son shines in the darkness, most of the darkness does not comprehend it (John 1:5). Despite His being in the world that He made, most people on earth do not know the true Jesus (John 1:10). The errors of the past have a way of repeating themselves in every generation.

Today, we are often eager for grace without truth. In an age that prefers to speak of your truth or my truth, the God who claims to be THE TRUTH seems uncouth and offensive to our modern sensibilities (John 14:6). But, according to Scripture, those who find grace must walk through the doorway of truth. Jesus is gracious and loving, offering salvation to all who will believe upon His name (John 1:12), but redemption requires abandoning our old way of life. We must repent and believe the gospel in order to follow Christ (Mark 1:15).

His grace does not scoff at the notion of truth. His grace does not contradict truth. His grace does not diminish truth. His grace inhabits truth and runs from lies. A world without Jesus is a world without grace and truth. Perhaps, above all else, what I’m most thankful for this Christmas is that we don’t have to imagine living in such a place. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15)!

Dr. Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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