Advent – What do you see?

A child is born. What do you see? A bundle wrapped in blankets? Or a great future? Or do you see it as a threat? The events of Christmas, then as now, are also a question of one’s perception. Three perspectives on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Phátne (“manger”, “crib”)—a central theme. Mary used it as a crib, an angel described it, and shepherds admired it. They were simple men who were used to hard manual work, their faces weather-beaten, and they often lived at the margins of society. Their lives played out between open fields, pens surrounded by stone walls, and stables naturally carved into the sides of hills. They cared little about the signs found in the Scriptures. But they knew the “manger”. It was something they were very familiar with from their daily work. And this is precisely what God used as a personal signal: “I am close to you in your own world.”

Aster (“star”). Another key word. The “star” is a personal signal to the wise men from the East: “You will find me here.” They were maybe no kings but certainly representatives of a Babylonian caste of scholars and priests. They were highly educated, perhaps even a little cerebral. But they were endowed with a crucial character trait: they were sensitive and receptive, which is the root of the Aramaic word “wise”, the everyday language of Jesus. These scientists were going to get to the bottom of things and find out what had penetrated into their daily reality.

Peace instead of facts

Terror, secrecy, rage, death—these were the words that surrounded Herod the king, who was especially great at murder. He had his brother-in-law, his wife, his mother-in-law, and three of his sons killed. The news that the wise men brought him about the child was also a signal for him—one that he took personally. The crazy ruler saw his world through his eyes and reacted with relentless violence.

Today many are inclined to analyse Christmas from a scientific point of view: there are suggestions that Christ was born in spring instead winter, that the stable was part of a house, and that the star was merely an astronomical phenomenon. Who knows? But that is missing the point. Christmas is not about historical facts. The point is the message that promises peace. And whether this message holds what it promises depends on those who hear it.

So, what do we see in this Christmas story? A tale about the future itinerant preacher Yeshua of Nazareth? An insult to people’s intelligence, which turns the heart into a snake-pit? A superstition that has to be eradicated?

Search, see, find

Or do we see this as the beginning of a story of a highly interesting person? A man who initiated a philosophy of love? A man who wrote world history? Or do we think about it, admire it, turn around, and return to our own reality after we have paid our due respects?

Or do we contemplate this miraculous event with our hearts? Simple, modest, and full of awe? The heart that understands the message of peace with God absorbs it, and beats at a different rate afterwards.

Whichever way you see it, your perception will define your reality. Therefore it is even more important to take a closer look. Because God has prepared a very personal signal for everyone, in an appropriate language. He sends it right into the heart of our lives. All we have to do is discover the signal. The promise is still valid: “He who seeks finds.”

Photo: t0m15 / fotolioa

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Andreas Rother
Christmas, Advent