At Christmas we start with the specific and move to the universal.
First we draw close to the miracle of a baby born to a poor couple, with only a barn to shelter them. The dim stable lamplight forms a kind of halo around them as we gaze. The mixed smells of animals and damp fodder fill our nostrils – not the ideal environment for childbirth. But this is what the world gave. The scene is so intimate, filled with such bittersweetness, that we take care not to intrude. Others gather with us – shepherds wander in, angels disguised in many garbs – captivated as we are by the stillness of the night. Stars shine in the sky – one more brightly than all the rest. God has touched the earth in this place, at this time.
But we cannot hold onto that sweet moment forever. A new day comes, with its demands, its fears, its challenges. The little family moves on, as do we. What shall we carry away with us – a memory? A mission?
Ever since that night, that moment, we ponder the meaning of this scene at the manger. What will this child mean for the world? For us? Jesus grows up as we all do, and finds his purpose, his mission in life. It is not an easy one. He feels called to preach about God – not the vengeance of God, but the love, the mercy, the forgiveness of God. It is a beautiful message…but the world, it seems, cannot, or will not, receive it. We are too caught up in our ways of competition, domination, and violence – or are we?
Jesus fights not with a sword, but with a word of love; not with an army but with a community of the least and the lost. He appears to be defeated by his foes, yet his message is not dead. The love lives on. Its light still shines in the darkness.
We are part of his light: his hands and feet in the world, his voice of love and reconciliation, his smile of welcome to all, especially to the poor and unwelcome in the world’s eyes. The miracle of a baby, born long ago to a poor couple, lives on, in us. Merry Christmas. JBM