Have you ever wondered what type of world Jesus was born into?
If we are not careful, the cosy nativity play portrayals of the birth of Jesus can give us a romanticised story-book impression. A mother and baby surrounded by admiring visitors in a cosy stable do not really portray the difficult and rather dark world that Jesus came to save.
Born just over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem in Galilee, Jesus came at a time when Israel was occupied by the Romans and where the political and religious leaders of the time were struggling with dis-unity about the direction that their country should take. He came at a time when political rulers, such as King Herod, ruthlessly sought to hold onto power at any cost even if that meant the slaughter of innocent children. Jesus came into a world which desperately needed God’s love to triumph over fear.
When I think of the nativity story, the enduring picture I see is light blazing in the darkness. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ and when He was born it was as though God brought His life giving light down onto earth to be a beacon of God’s love for all human kind. John’s gospel put it like this:
“What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”
Jesus’ coming brought God’s light to earth. His words and actions transcended the politics and the fears of His day and proclaimed a message of hope. He wasn’t concerned about gaining power for Himself but wanted to show the world what God’s love and light was like and that He cared about people. Jesus spoke of justice for all people, He welcomed outcasts and had a heart of compassion for the least and the lost. He sought to heal division, challenging others to love even their enemies. He was persistent in His message of grace even to the point of death on a cross. And yet, even then His light was not extinguished but only shone brighter through His glorious resurrection.
Is our world very different from the one Jesus lived in? Do we hear echoes of the past: of dis-unity; fear; and unscrupulous leaders willing to sacrifice the liberty and lives of innocent people to remain in power? Now, more than ever, we need Christ’s light to shine out into this world to speak love, compassion, grace, mercy and justice into our lives. Christmas is about celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection ultimately shows us that there is a God who loves us and thinks that we are so precious that He would give everything in His Son Jesus to bring us into unity with Him. A unity in Him that allows His light to shine through us and out into our world today.
In this season of Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, my prayer is that Jesus, the Light of the World, would shine out ever more powerfully into this world and that we, as His light-carriers, would shine out His saving love too.
Wishing you every blessing in Christ this Christmas.
Daniel Currie (Vicar)