Christmas 2015: He was born in a stable!

Jesus Christ, a superstar? This is what many people expected, already then. The Messiah they were anticipating should at least have had a golden crown, a sparkling tunic, and rings on His fingers symbolizing His power. But none of this materialized. The red carpet stopped in front of a stable.

In Bethlehem, the West Bank, where all this began there is a more than 700-kilometre long security fence today. There in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israelis—Muslims, Jews, and Christians—are keeping a wary eye on each other, the border crossing to Bethlehem is closed, and border controls are tight. There is graffiti on the stone barrier that reads: “We were born to fight!”, “No peace—no freedom.” Nowhere else in the world is the clash of opinions, social constraints, and conflicts as direct and close as here. Two thousand years ago, the Saviour was born there. What has mankind learned since?

Ruler without a kingdom

Already then only a few people really understood what had transpired: the shepherds in the field, the astrologers from Iraq, Simeon and Anna in the temple—very few people indeed. The Saviour of the world came to mankind, but they did not recognize Him. Jesus had none of the things that rulers have: He had no honour, no glory, no riches, and no power.

People, on the other hand, demand proof so that they can believe. God has to prove His existence. God has to do miracles so that people can believe. But faith is not created by miracles or through proof, but through the word of God. Only if we can believe His word can we also recognize the Saviour. God does not want to reign on earth; He wants to rule in our hearts.

And peace on earth

Let us reflect on our own Christmas mood. What is Christmas for us? Is it all about the consumption of goods or is it a family feast that revolves only around ourselves? Or do we give love, understanding, and peace to others?

Here is a case in point. A young man attends a divine service in one of our congregations. He is homeless. It is his own fault. He smells of sweat, is badly shaven, and has yellow teeth. His trousers have holes and so does his sweater. Many of the members tolerate him, others make a point of avoiding him. Only a few actually come and talk to him. The Priest gives him a hug very demonstratively, says his name loudly, smiles at him, and talks with him. He takes him to the front door of the church so that others also have to shake his hand … Is this exaggerated? No, that is exactly the way it should be done! Jesus is there for the poor, among others. And He is also there for us.

There is hope: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

Photo: Gino Santa Maria

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Peter Johanning