Ngomakurira – Christmas

Around Bethlehem there are ripples, concentric circles. On the outermost are those who enjoy the city lights, the prospect of holidays, of meeting family and friends and eating and drinking and parties. It is a time to look forward to - a break in the daily routine. The next circle in are those w

ho do all the above but they also think of the first Christmas when Mary and Joseph made their way to that city in Judah for the census. Through this bureaucratic event the ancient prophecy was fulfilled that ‘a child would be born who would be called Emmanuel, God who is with us’ (Isaiah 7:14). The people in this circle will go to their church and give thanks to our God who takes us so seriously that he decided to become one of us and enter into our world and ‘carry our burdens'(Isaiah 53:4).

He was part of us and lived as we live except that, being who he was, he lived with total integrity. He knew hunger and thirst, tiredness and frustration, rejection and persecution. His family had to flee to Egypt and later he had ‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58). Eventually he was tortured and killed on false charges. Yes, there is joy at Christmas in the atmosphere and the singing, the meetings with family and the feasting. But the Christian realizes too that Calvary casts a long shadow all the way from Golgotha to Bethlehem.

Then finally there are those in the inner circle closest to the crib. These are the ones who themselves have nowhere to lay their heads. Their houses have been knocked down. They have lost their livelihood and are refugees in their own land or have had to flee abroad. They are tired of the present set-up where few work for the common good. They cannot find or cannot afford the food they need for their families. They are thoroughly frustrated and if they try to protest they are arrested and sometimes tortured and killed. Yes, these are the ones closest to the newborn child.

And the message? The ancient hymns proclaim, ‘Gloria in excelcis Deo!’ Glory to God in the highest! But what glory is this? A child born in poverty in a stable in a remote corner of an oppressed land. Just at the moment of his passion, when things were at their darkest, Jesus cried out, ‘now is the Son of Man glorified’ (John 12:23). His life, suffering and death were but the door to his resurrection.

Those of us who are Christians must avoid being superficial about the gospel. Otherwise Marx, with his taunt of ‘opium for the people,’ will be on to us. The real message is that if we live each day in integrity and truth – values scarce among the powerful in our land – we will win through to glory.

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