We dedicate this column to all Christians in Sri Lanka as they join more than two billion Christians around the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago when Caesar Augustus was the Emperor of Rome, which held sway over the land. Jesus at his birth was ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger because there was no place in the Inn’.
When we think of Christmas today what strikes us most are the decorations, the gifts, sumptuous lunches, cakes and wines, visits to friends and relatives and the discounts and promotions of one kind or the other. But is this all there is to Christmas? Do these extraneous and mundane celebrations point us to Jesus, the focal point of Christmas and His message to all humankind?
Amid the hustle and bustle associated with the festivities, it is no secret that we are inclined to forget what Christmas is all about. How many of us take our minds back to the first Christmas and the worry, uncertainty and anxiety that might have troubled and beset Mary, the mother of Jesus and his foster father Joseph, prior to, during and after Jesus’ birth.
This narrative from Luke’s Gospel gives us a glimpse or inkling of what prevailed during the birth of Jesus in a cattle-shed at Bethlehem in present-day Israel.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So, all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God, came to be born and dwelt among us to share with us God’s abundant love for each one of us and as He walked the length and breadth of Nazareth in Galilee, He taught those who gathered around Him how they could live a righteous life, which was pleasing to God. He did so by example rather than by precept, which was the pastime of the Pharisees or the religious leaders at the time looking how best to trip Him and hand Him over to be killed.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. It becomes even more wonderful when Jesus is celebrated and invited to share in our grand and lowly moments because it is He, who can make the peace and joy of Christmas last throughout the year and not just at Christmas.
Let us be people, who have been transformed by Jesus living in us and walking with us daily by building an intimate relationship with Him so that we could face the uncertainties of tomorrow and experience His peace within our hearts amid the turmoil around us. So at this Christmas let us strip ourselves of all distractions and turn to our Saviour Jesus Christ, who shows us the way to the Father, with whom after our sojourn here on earth, we will have everlasting peace and rest.
We conclude with two verses, Christmas in a capsule as it were, from the beautiful hymn by George Bernard: ‘Oh, tell me His name again’.
“They tell me of love’s sweet old story.
They tell me of a wonderful name.
It thrills my soul with its glory.
It burns in my heart like a flame.
They say He’s the one that so loved me,
That in Heaven He could not remain;
He came down to seek and to save me.
Oh, tell me His name again.
“Oh, tell me His name again
And sing me the sweet refrain
Of Him who in love, came down from above
To die on the cross in shame;
This story my heart has been stirred,
The sweetest I’ve ever heard,
It banishes fear; it brings hope and cheer,
Oh, tell me His name again.”
We wish all our readers, the blessings of Peace and Joy of Christmas.