At Christmas, our attention is focused on the birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem cave. It was completely unexpected. The star, which the wise men followed, did not stop at a royal palace, but at a stable used for sheltering animals. Perhaps we are amazed and surprised that God should come to us as a helpless and dependent child, of poor parents far from home, who were soon to become refugees in Egypt? Perhaps we are disappointed because in our search for God we tend to look for the spectacular rather than the ordinary? We should not be. The Christmas story tells us that God is to be found right before our eyes in every day places – in the people and situations that perhaps we take for granted. By choosing to be born in such a humble and desolate place, away from the public eye, and away from the world’s palaces and riches, God turns our worldly understanding of the spectacular, of celebrity and success, upside down. God gives us a clear message about the need to see Grace and goodness among the very poorest people, and in most desolate and ordinary places. This is good news. The first to share with Mary and Joseph the joy of the birth of God’s Son were country people, shepherds guarding their flocks by night on nearby hills. Their presence at the birth was the assurance that God was accessible to ordinary people carrying out their everyday work.
Our celebration of Christmas is more than a remembrance of the happenings in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. It is a reminder that God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to be with us, to show us the ways of God, and to journey with us in our lives. That night, a new-born child became our living link with God.
Christmas focuses not only on what Jesus did by making his home with us, but on what we must do also, for it reveals that we are part of God’s family. This means that we should reverence each human life, and that raises tough questions about our treatment of other people. As Christmas approaches, we are invited, once again, to celebrate God who makes himself known to us. The simplicity of it challenges us to rid ourselves of falseness and pretense, and to recognize, in the new-born child, a Saviour who will show us a new life with glorious possibilities. We need to be a part of the story ourselves, and we need to rediscover the joy and wonder of the Christmas message. God comes to us to show us how to live and how to love. Our life, all human life, is part of this story; it is the story of God’s care and concern, and of involvement with the world in which we live. As God’s Son, Jesus comes into all the complexities of human living and shows us that, through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, we can all share in this new life. Life can be different, and life can be changed. St John, speaking about the birth of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel, says this: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” As we celebrate the love of God seen in the Christ-child this Christmas season, may we all come to know the good news of the Christmas story and be transformed by it.
May the joy, peace and love of this season be yours.