For the secular and non-Christ followers in America, Christmas most likely is a season of gifts, a season of colorful lights, a season for a trip to share time with relatives, a season for a tree decorated with trinkets and heirlooms, a season for parties, and more. It seems to this observer that “the season” has begun earlier and earlier in order to take full advantage of the commercial side of this birthday.
However, for this Christ-follower, the substance of this birthday is more. Yes, I have always given and received gifts, had a decorated tree, and such. But I am aware of the power of the commercial world during Christmas and work to “be in the world, but not of the world.”
Jesus’ birth mystifies still. Yes, he was born of a virgin, but what of the arduous journey that his parents made? What of the smelly shepherds informed of his birth by angels? What of the Roman military occupiers of the land who wanted the child killed? What of so much surrounding this birth of one small child? Luke writes in 2: 18-19 that Mary, after hearing from the shepherds that folks wondered at their story, “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Since Luke was not present ay that time, did the young virgin, who was cast like Job into an unasked-for role, tell him how she felt at that time? We know so much with so little, and our faith must take over for much of Jesus’ birth.
But we are a culture that likes and expects concrete answers. So, I offer to the reader a poem by the English poet, U.A. Fanthorpe that may explain this magnificent birth:
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
May peace reign: Vrede, Salām, Paz, Shalom, Peace to us all.