“… in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht… all is calm, all is bright
Adeste fideles, laeti triumpantes… Noel, noel, noel
O come let us adore him… born is the king of Israel
Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, French, German, English …
A cave in Bethlehem echoes with multilingual songs of pilgrims… sleep in peace… Christ the saviour is born…. God is here… We sing the familiar songs and our hearts swell as in the days in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph, shepherds and angels, wise magi from the east… God is here! The good news bursts from the scriptures as men and women discovered in the life and death of Jesus, “God is here’.
The lives of Mary and Joseph were filled with extraordinary experiences. It’s not always easy to handles surprises. Mary treasured and reflected on events. The shepherds glorified God. Others who heard the story were astonished. When we accept that God acts in our lives, we must respond, respond with trust and love, as we are loved by God.
The birth of Jesus is a preview of the Kingdom of God Jesus would proclaim. The foundation of the Kingdom of God is justice for the poor and vulnerable among us. The Gospel defines an understanding of peace that is not just the absence of discord but the reality of justice, mercy and reconciliation. The kingdom of Christ is the antithesis of the Caesars of the world.
Throughout history, we have always wanted peace. There have essentially been two methods to achieving peace. For example, the “Pax Romana,” or Roman Peace, was spread through violent conquest. The Pax Romana believed that the way to peace was through defeating your enemies. It never brought about true peace, as violence can never be contained and you constantly live in fear that someone will stab you in the back!
That way to peace is contrasted by the Way of Christ, who gave peace, but not as the world gives peace. The Roman Empire gave “peace” as the world gives peace. But, for Jesus, the way to peace isn’t through defeating our enemies, but through loving them.[i]
Two thousand years on the Bethlehem story is layered with tinselled memories from childhood, and Calvary’s horror pales beside the atrocities of our time. Can the Gospel really speak to our experience now and still proclaim a saviour is born?
In any birthday celebration, we pause to celebrate the life of the person so far. It is not so the baby we remember, but the person now, in whatever stage of life they are and the memories of all the richness of their life – both its joys and sorrows. So it is today. We celebrate a birth, but more importantly we celebrate a life given for us. We celebrate that God has joined our human story in the person of Jesus and lives with us in the Holy Spirit.
Silent night, holy night… sleep in heavenly peace…
The song continues in the hearts of Christians, for the manger in Bethlehem we now carry within. The holy place of Israel has become the holy place in our own lives, in our hearts and souls. When we enter this sacred place with the longings and hopes of pilgrims we too can find the Christ of God born ever anew. In the silence and stillness of our own Bethlehem, our voices can sing with the voices of pilgrims through the ages: God is here, god is truly here.[ii]
Reading: Luke 2:1-7, 8-12, 15-20
[ii] Mary Coloe