I have shared this story before; it is not original to me. This question can be illustrated by the following example. I have had many relatives spend time out on Catalina Island.
Out in Southern California, there is an island off the coast called Catalina, twenty-six miles from the pier at Newport Beach. Suppose that one day three men are standing on the end of the pier.
One is an alcoholic, grubby, sick, living in the streets. The second is the average American, and the third a fine, upstanding, “pillar-of-the-community” person.
All of a sudden, the alcoholic leaps off the edge of the pier five feet out into the water. The other two yell, “What are you trying to do?” The man in the water yells back, “I’m jumping to Catalina!”
The second man, the average man on the street, says, “Watch me. I can do better than that!” He proceeds to jump, landing ten feet out, twice as far as the alcoholic. The third man, very moral, upright, outstanding person that he is, laughs disdainfully at the two men in the water.
He moves back about fifty yards, takes a running leap and lands twenty feet out, twice as far as Mr. Average, and four times as far as Mr. Alcoholic.
The Coast Guard fishes them out of the water and asks what they are doing, to which they all reply, “We are jumping to Catalina,” and Mr. Average boasts of his beating Mr. Alcoholic, and Mr. Great boasts of his accomplishment in beating both of them.
The Coast Guard officer could only shake his head and exclaim, “You fools! You are all still twenty-six miles short of your mark.”
Although modern man considers himself better than—or at least as good as—others, he is still far from the target God has set for us. It is impossible for anyone to jump from the pier to Catalina, and it is impossible for anyone to reach heaven by his own deeds and apart from Jesus Christ. This is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our LORD and Savior, for Jesus came into the world to seek out the sick sinners, that they would repent and follow Him all the way home.