As a child, I was always intrigued by the storyline in the classic film, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. In the movie, Jimmy played a character named George Bailey who was frustrated and discouraged with the life he was living. At the height of his frustration, he makes a hasty wish that he had never been born. His wish is granted and he quickly discovers what life would truly be like had he never been born. Life was drastically different than he thought it would be without him around. He was so broken and horrified at what he saw, he stood on a snow covered bridge and cried, “I want to live again!” He simply wanted back the life he had taken for granted and lost.
As I prepared to settle in for a good night of sleep, I couldn’t get out of my mind some words I came across in my evening devotion that Jesus had spoken in John 15:22. Echoing over and over in my mind was His words, “if I had not come…if I had not come…if I had not come.” Once I lost consciousness, I found myself awakened in a world that gave all the outward appearances of still being the world I knew, but there was a strange hollowness to it. Babies were still being born, the sun still shined, and flowers still blossomed, but something was missing. Suddenly, a stranger appeared who began providing a narrating escort to help me understand the world in which I found myself. He informed me that many of the sights I would be permitted to see could be disturbing, but it was how the world would be if Jesus had never been born.
When we began the journey walking down a street, I noticed red, white, and blue flags flying proudly, but they were not of the design I recognized. I asked if this was still the United States of America, and the escort told me it was not. He said to me, “The country you are now living in is known as the Continental States of New England and is a sector of the Roman Empire.” I asked him how this came to be, and he said, “Since Jesus was never born, the Roman Empire had no Christians to persecute and grew mighty in its world power. However, during a critical stage of the Revolutionary War, George Washington was stuck in a heavy snow storm at Valley Forge and, being unable to access God’s presence for himself, could not get back to the temple to offer sacrifice, and the Roman-British army captured this land.” Although declared a free and democratic society, Caesar XVI only allowed religious activities that did not threaten his decisions or direction.
Passing down the street a little further, I noticed there were not churches on every street corner. In fact, only large cities possessed places of worship, and the worship was certainly quite different. It was such a festive atmosphere, but only certain people were permitted to participate. Worshipers came and others sang for them, read the bible for them, prayed for them, and told them all the rules they needed to keep. None of the congregation were permitted into the Lord’s presence. I noticed that no one was carrying a Bible. I asked to see a copy of the Bible and was told only privileged people could read it. Their Bible only contained the Old Testament, and they had never heard of the apostles or the disciples.
However, while they may not have had a Bible, everyone did bring a sacrifice. For many of the wealthier worshipers, they had purchased A.K.C. registered, top-of-the-line sacrifices from the local Wal-Mart. For those who were constantly on the go, there were even state-of-the-art drive-thru houses of sacrifice even in the most rural of places. In a world where Jesus had never been born, this was just the best people could do to maintain a right standing before God.
As our journey continued, I was taken back by the fact there were as many prisons as there were McDonald’s in the world from which I came. The escort informed me that because Jesus had never been born in this world, it was saturated with hate, prejudice, selfishness, and bitterness. The crime rates had well exceeded those in the days of Noah and the days of Lot. I sat down for a moment and noticed a breaking news report on television. Natural disasters were occurring all over the world, but no one seemed to be interested in helping. There was no Salvation Army or Red Cross. In fact, it was a world without a cross. Because Jesus had never been born, the world knew nothing of forgiveness, grace, or mercy. Man’s hardness was growing out of the fact there had now been 2,500 years of silence from hearing anything fresh from God. Had Jesus been born in this world it would have exposed just how much love the Father holds in His heart for them.
I was also surprised to see hospitals on nearly every street. Sickness and death were so commonplace, and hospitals were overcrowded and understaffed. I noticed the empty, hollow stares of those in the rooms. It reminded me of parts of my world where people never knew about Jesus and the hope, healing, and home He had to offer them. I was curious to see if any doctor or nurse would pray with the patients, but, again, only certain people were qualified to pray and they were simply professional in their dealings.
Interestingly enough, even the priests who could pray were not found because they were too busy with customs, traditions, and rituals to mingle with the sickly or the sinful. Since Jesus had not been born, death had not yet been confronted and conquered. Death still had a sting, and the hope of resurrection was still awaiting prophetic fulfillment.
While there were prisons and hospitals a plenty, school buildings were at a premium. It was the belief of the Roman leadership that the less people were educated, the less thinkers there would be, and thus minimizing the potential of understanding the true democracy in which they lived. Fathers and mothers had the responsibility of truly educating their children at home, but most of the parents knew very little to teach. The children’s day at school consisted mostly of recess, video games, and reality-show teaching where children competed for the chance at a true education. I asked one of the children if he had ever seen a bible or prayed, and he answered, “they won’t allow us to have those things at school because it might expose us to wisdom that could hurt us.”
It was now Christmas day, and I asked the escort if I could please see the stable in Bethlehem’s village. In an instant I was there. When I gazed inside, I saw a camel, some goats, some sheep, and three aged men who appeared to have been waiting a long time with gifts. However, the cradle was empty. I was overwhelmed at what I was seeing because I knew an empty cradle would mean an empty cross, and an empty cross would mean an empty crown.
Suddenly, I was awakened by my weeping. I jumped from the bed and ran down the street to confirm in my heart that this horrifying experience was just a dream. I came to the hospital and prison which were overcrowded, but found so few willing to extend love. I came to the school house and saw the children afraid to pray, read the bible, or think for themselves. I came to the marketplace and saw signs promoting “Happy Holidays”, and I asked what the holiday was. Someone said, “shhhhh, we can’t mention that name anymore.” I watched a congressional discussion about removing “one nation under God” from the pledge of allegiance and “in God we trust” from our money. The Ten Commandments were ruled no longer constitutional as the standard rule of law and were removed from the walls of our courthouses.
Then I came to the church. I thought, “Surely I’ll discover it was all just a nightmare there.” I could not believe my eyes. I watched them come in by the thousands, but they wanted someone to sing for them, read for them, and pray for them. It was a festive show of entertainment that thrilled the heart of the people. As the choir sang “Jingle Bells,” I was almost sure I saw a nativity scene, but at closer observation it was merely a decorated tree surrounded by snowmen, teddy bears, a gingerbread boy, and a herd of reindeer.
I knew I must not have been fully awake, so I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. Was everything just as I was perceiving it to be, or was it all just a part of one big nightmare? The bible tells me in Luke 2:16, that the shepherds “found…the babe lying in a manger.” If I wasn’t so convinced that the Bible is the accurate and authoritative Word of God, looking around me at how life is being lived in the world today, it would be easy to get the impression that Jesus had never been born. Perhaps soon, America will wake up from this nightmare we are living in and realize that Jesus being born is what has truly made this a wonderful life!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2007 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.