Who would have dreamed that the events of that cold, lonely night in Bethlehem would change the world forever? The choreography of events was miraculous. A teenage woman, uncommonly accepted by her fiancé in spite of her unexplained pregnancy, migrated with people from across the nation to their places of origin to register for a Roman census. Venus, Jupiter, Aries, Virgo … the bodies of the heavens aligned, jostling into an astrological cue so spectacular that astrologers from the east traveled hundreds of miles to find the woman’s baby foretold in holy writings and now confirmed in the stars. Meanwhile, you spent your first night with your mother and her husband in a filthy cave and wrapped in rags.
Your life became a series of examples of love, hope and forgiveness. You fed the hungry, gave grace to the broken hearted, and shattered the brittle regimen of religion. The men and women who eventually watched you die were transformed by your message. They said you rose from the dead and thus felt compelled to share your story, birthing a movement that would never be stopped. As the years progressed their resolve was unshaken; many of your followers were put to death. Some were tortured, others crucified, stoned, set on fire, some even torn apart by lions as crowds cheered.
But over the centuries, your followers continued to live by the tenets of your charity. They brought food, medicine, blankets, friendship, and hope. No group of people in all of history has strived for more social justice and mercy than your followers. Without fail, they are among the first to tend to the sick in disasters, to teach the orphans, to build hope, and to feed the hungry.
But like all great treasures, humankind has tried to lay claim on your simple message. At times they have altered its story, misused its power, or hidden its relevance. It has been used to control women, to regulate culture, to justify materialism, and to carry out murder, even though you made it clear you came to give life. Powerful and corrupt people have turned it into an unbearable rulebook, while ignoring its unique message of grace.
Despite this, your message still grew. Your love for the suffering generated the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, the Salvation Army, and countless hospitals, orphanages, schools and emergency shelters around the world. Millions of wounds have been doctored in your name, children comforted, slaves freed, and lives restored. People continue to change their entire life direction once they discover you. Some, despite the risk, are compelled to take your story of love into the most dangerous situations.
You did not come to this world to solve all our problems or offer physical comfort. You came to offer contentment to our souls. Your message is hope in the face of despair, eternal life in the face of death, serenity in the face of regret. You tell us that no matter what, we can still find you. Your gift cannot be denied. Time cannot dilute an eternal message. Corrupt leadership cannot quell a well-spring of love.
Merry Christmas Jesus. Your gift is a warm blanket of hope. Even if “Christ” does not remain in Christmas, you will still remain secure in the hearts of billions around the world.