By Bill Pugh
Christmas again. Refreshingly new every time we listen to the story. It inspires poetry, songs of praise and artists. It is pictured in cathedrals, churches and chapel design. It is an occasion for pilgrimage and procession. A focus of celebration. A season of wonder, joy and possibility. A story linked to the past, but ever-present. A journey of faith, with signposts on the way. It is the fulfilment of prophecy, assurance to the faithful, the oppressed and downtrodden, looking for a coming One who would bring peace where there is no peace.
At the centre of this story is Bethlehem, a little town, foretold by the prophet to be his birthplace. The Magi, bearing gifts for a king, followed a star whose position indicated the site of a royal birth.
Shepherds out in the fields on a starry night, minding their sheep. Angels round about doing what angels are called to do.
A young couple – Mary and Joseph. Mary is very pregnant and they are housed in a stable; there is no other room. Mary, with a secret in her heart. The simplicity of it all. In what other way, or place, would God act?
Then, a poignant and breathless pause. Silence in heaven and on earth. Waiting. Suddenly, the cry of a tiny babe.
“Unto us a son is given” rang out the word of the prophet. At that moment, time changed. BC became AD. The year of the Lord.
Who first heard the news? An angel went to the shepherds out in the fields. Terrified by its presence, they were at once reassured:
“Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
At this, the heavens erupted with the sound of a choir of angels, a great Hallelujah chorus of praise – “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among those on whom his favour rests”.
So it happened, as the prophet had foretold, in little Bethlehem, would be born a king, a good shepherd for his people. And on the word from an angel, the child was named Jesus, as scripture records, a name above every other name, which perfectly fits his person and life.
Again at this wonderful season of Christmas, with generous giving to the less fortunate, prayers for peace, positive and responsible settlement for refugees, as once was our Lord, these our neighbours in dire need, as in carol and song, we are summoned to respond to the invitation of the poet – “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem, come and behold him born the king of angels: come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!
Image by Waiting for the Word via Flickr.