We are once again at the threshold of Christmas. Tonight when choirs in churches will serenade carols, the church bells will toll. As I write this sitting in Austria, I see beautiful snowflakes falling all around, giving hope to Bing Crosby’s famous Christmas song, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas; with every Christmas card I write; May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white”. A white Christmas is naturally possible only in the northern hemisphere.
But Christmas is celebrated all over the world, even if not everywhere for the reasons of faith. What will be sung in the churches tonight, however, when the bells start pealing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people on earth…”, proclaiming the faith of Christians on this great divine intervention into human history — the birth of the saviour Jesus Christ. Though there were no snowflakes in Bethlehem then, the nights were certainly cold.
Being an extraordinary divine event, it had to have some supernatural trappings to it. The Bible tells us, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby… An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them… the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
While this is what is reported in the New Testament of the Bible, biblical scholars hold that the birth as well as the death referring to the Messiah had been foretold in the Old Testament several times, sometimes directly, and other times indirectly. God had been preparing the people through the words of various prophets for this great historical event when God would don the human form to identify with human beings. The sole purpose of such identification was to share with us God’s unconditional love, as John’s gospel tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”
Eventually when that baby Jesus achieved adulthood, he translated his mission thus, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Christmas then is the celebration of God’s love for each one of us, which, as the angels proclaimed, “brings peace and joy on earth”, provided, of course, that we love God and one another....