Based on a true story

I don’t watch many films but when I choose to see one it’s likely because it depicts actual historical events…Apollo 13, Schindler’s List, Bridge of Spies, Hidden Figures. I don’t care much for fantasy. But even these “factual” films end up fantasizing a bit with the details in order to heighten the drama or fill in the unknown. So they’re “based on a true story,” not literally and exactly true stories themselves.

Christmas is based on a true story also. Many fanciful and superfluous dramatic details have swollen and distorted the story, the most obvious of which is the whole Santa nonsense, but there is raw truth underneath all the cooked up falsities. The question for all of us this, and every, Christmas is…do we know what that truth is and do we care?

Okay…that’s technically two questions. I like your attention to detail and fondness for facts. See, that’s what I’m talking about, and that’s what would make the world a better place. My utopian ideal is a population stubbornly insistent on knowing, valuing, and propagating truth. Not that engaging in fantasy would be frowned on, but that it would be seen for what it is – NOT the truth. I wouldn’t be such a scrooge about Santa if parents weren’t passing him off as bona fide truth to their trusting children.

Of course, it’s not just the Santa myth that distorts the truth about Christmas. It’s the focus on buying the perfect gift, having the best lighting display on the block, or putting on the most elaborate holiday party. I’m just as guilty here as anyone else.

But the fantastical figures and consuming consumerism overshadow and effectively hide the simple but eternally significant kernel of truth of Christmas even though it’s right there in the word itself. Christ. As in, Jesus Christ…Savior of the world. Remember him?

True story: The Author of life entered into the world he created in much the same way as any of us did, except without the sexual act. He miraculously (because if there is a God then miracles are possible) became truly human, even as he remained truly God, so that he could take on himself our penalty for sin. That’s “our” as in every single human being who’s ever lived or will live. Only a God-Man could do that.

And only a God who loves us with an everlasting love WOULD do that.

So Christmas Day is when we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah…an actual, historical event, however uncertain the day and year may be. He lived, he died, he was resurrected…all these facts can be reasonably established from the evidence. The Son of God became one of us so that we can become one with him. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

And isn’t that the most magnificently wonderful truth to remember and celebrate at least once a year?