Christmas today marks the birth of Christ Jesus but it needs to go far beyond a birthday party or a family reunion because this historic event is a manifestation of God’s unending, unfailing, unlimited and unmerited love for people of all races and religions throughout the world. Freely as we receive this divine, merciful, compassionate, and ever-forgiving love freely we need to give it to others by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is Christmas. There is a cliché that “every day is not Christmas”. But it really could be so when we freely receive God’s unconditional love and freely give it to others without expecting anything in return.
We also need to reflect today on some significant aspects relating to Christmas. The glad tidings about the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords were first given by the angels to hardworking shepherds, who were watching their flocks by night. At that stage in Jewish history, shepherds were outcast and marginalised by the Jewish religious leaders and by most people. This was because they did not observe Sabbath rules and many of more than six hundred laws and regulations imposed on the people by Jewish religious leaders. But God acted in a mysterious way and chose the shepherds to hear the glad tidings of great joy. Like most Jews shepherds also may have believed that the Messiah or the King of Kings would be born in a palace. But their faith was so deep that they believed that the King of Kings was born in a Bethlehem cattle shed with a manger for his bed. It was a jubilee for the shepherds. They took their finest gifts and went to the cattle shed where they worshipped baby Jesus.
In today’s terminology, the shepherds would be referred to as “Palli Yannethi Pawkarayo” (Sinners who do not even go to church). But God chose them to be the first to see the Messiah and King of Kings.
The next to see Him were three wise men or Magie. Storytelling is part of Jewish culture and the Lord Jesus also told many stories, the most inspiring being the parable of the good Samaritan. Using this parable as the basis, a Christian scholar has told an astounding story about the fourth wise man. In Sri Lankan terms we could call him “Navaratne”. He was waiting for a message from the other three wise men and when he received it he rushed to Bethlehem with three gems to be given to the King of Kings. But on the way, he saw a man who had been attacked and left to die.
So he took the dying man to a nearby hospital and gave the emerald as for the expenses for the treatment. When the fourth wise man reached Bethlehem the three other wise men had seen Jesus and left.
But there was pandemonium in the city because the wicked king Herod had sent soldiers to slaughter the infants. The fourth wise man rushed into a house where he saw a mother cuddling her baby. Just then a Roman soldier entered and the fourth wise man intervened. He gave the soldier the sapphire and saved the child.
For the next 33 years, the fourth wise man searched for Jesus and then he heard that the Messiah had been condemned to be crucified at Calvary. He rushed there so that by giving the diamond he could save the Messiah. But on the way, he saw a girl being dragged away because her father could not pay back the debt taken from a rich man. According to regulations the girl then becomes the slave of the rich man. She begged the fourth wise man to save her and he did so by giving the diamond to the rich man. Just then there was thunder, lightning and darkness at the noon-the time of the crucifixion. A boulder fell on the fourth wise man, he fell and lay dying. The girl rushed to his side and heard someone speaking to him saying “thank you for the gems you gave me”. It was Jesus speaking and the fourth wise man asked him when or where he had given Jesus the gems. Jesus replied “whatever you gave to the least of my brothers and sisters, you gave unto me” (Mathew 25:40).
So this is Christmas. Whatever we do to the least of our sisters or brothers we do unto the Lord and thus we become a Christmas gift for Him. So instead of just giving gifts, we need to become a gift to others.