What is Christmas? For many it is a time for holidays, parties, family gatherings, gifts, meals together, music, and special events. For others it can mean unwanted pressure, an increased sense of loneliness, family squabbles, and crowded shops. For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas takes place at the onset of winter with its cold weather and short days. There are more incidents of depression at Christmas time than at any other time of the year. It is the best of times for some, but the worst of times for others to borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens.
The birth of Jesus divided history into two major epochs. Until the dawn of our hyper-sensitive age, even the way we dated events underscored this. From time immemorial every day, every week, every month, every year has been described as either 'B.C.' ('Before Christ') or 'A.D.' (Anno Domini, 'in the year of our Lord'). Even the modern, pluralistic style abbreviations, B.C.E. ('Before the Common Era') and C.E. ('Common Era'), cannot obliterate the indelible impress of Jesus' birth. For what makes the 'Common Era' so 'common'? And what explains the dividing line date? The answer is the same: the birth of Jesus. At the very centre of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. And he does so because he is at the centre of God's story.