Before Jesus came to the earth, the world was much more brutal. Every day people didn't seem to mind seeing people flogged to death, hung on crosses, burned or whatever other despicable thing they could think up.
The Colosseum in Rome is a living monument to the absolute brutality and heartlessness that mankind is capable of. That brutality was characteristic of the time before Jesus came to earth.
Before Jesus came, infanticide was common practice. In the ancient world, it was commonplace to see unwanted babies on the rubbish dump each morning, placed there by their mothers.
People started to want to emulate Jesus, who taught," In everything do to others what you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:27-31)) Because of this change of heart and belief, society started to change.
In our world, we take our values on human life for granted; we are usually shocked and outraged when we see atrocities and brutality against others. We react because, in our society, we've had regard for human life embedded in our culture for centuries.
But had Jesus never been born, it would have been a different story – human life would be cheap.
The morality of any society can easily be judged by the view it holds on human life. Remove the influence of Jesus in the world, and you will quickly see how cheap human life becomes.
Jesus increased the value of human life by elevating the value of women. Mistreatment of women was common around the world. Sati – widow burning is an example of this, where 1000's of girls as young as 13 years old were married to men who were fifty or sixty years old. The young women were expected to throw themselves on the funeral pier and die with their husbands when they died.
Through the agitation of Christian missionaries in India, finally, it was made illegal in the 1830s. Thousands of women even now owe their lives to the influence of those missionaries.
A Hindu woman once told a missionary, "Surely your Bible was written by a woman.' 'Why?' he asked. "Because it says so many kind things for women".
Before the spread of Christianity, there was no organized charitable effort in the world. The example and teaching of Jesus changed how the world reacted to those in need, especially the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.
The Bible repeatedly teaches us to love our neighbour, give, have compassion and bear one another's burdens. "He who despises his neighbour sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he." (Proverbs 14:21)
Hospitals as we know them began through the influence of those who sought to follow Jesus's way and teachings. This gave rise to nursing care, and organizations started by Christians, such as The Red Cross, are an example.
The phenomenon of education for everyone has its roots in Christianity. Christianity has given rise to the concept of education for everyone. Christians started the greatest universities worldwide for Christian purposes. While many of them may today be quite hostile to the Christian faith, the fact is that it was through the labour and sacrifices of Christians that Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and others were created.
I recently read an account which reveals just how radical a change Jesus coming to earth has made. It's the story of a serviceman in World War Two who was out in the jungle on one of the Pacific islands when he came across an indigenous man carrying a big bible.
He pointed at it and said, "We don't believe in that book anymore". The man looked at him and smiled, "Well, it's a good thing for you that I do, or you'd be in here by now", and he pointed at his stomach.
The spread of Christianity caused the widespread practice of cannibalism to decrease as people came to know Jesus and follow his teachings.
One scholar said, "Without Jesus' influence in our society, we would not have benign neutrality, but a sinister form of secularism, where life would have diminished value."
Jesus Christ was born; He did come to earth, and it's important to understand what a difference historically and individually He has made. One, because it affects our life both now and for all eternity, and two so that we are ever mindful of continuing to protect and stand for that which is pure, holy, loving and good.
I encourage you not to take for granted or forget what Jesus has done for all mankind. It is just as the angel said on that starry night. "Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!" (Luke 2:10)
Prayer: Jesus, help me not to underestimate the difference you coming into the world made. You are the one who taught us how to love, to be compassionate, and to reach out to the hurting, the sick, and the lonely. Please help me be as you are in my world today, especially at this time of the year. In Jesus' name Amen