Many of us tend to talk about God as someone who is inaccessible to common people. We have a tendency to speak of God as someone who is out there or up there, and not necessarily here, with us. Even when we say prayers in public places, we like to use jargon or heavenly language, which is detached from day-to-day activities or earthly language.

Even we preachers like to use ornamental language and terms – making God detached from the common people (e.g., we tend to use Hebrew-Greek words or ornamental theological terms). We speak of, about or for God using very disconnected words, terms, and concepts i.e., detached from the life and experience of the common people.

However, that should not be the case! The day-to-day experience and reality of the common people are very different from these usages. In reality, not many of us entertain God-thought or think about God regularly. On a daily basis, we tend to think about something else, while engaging in something else.

If you are a high school/college student, student life or exam/assignment is on your mind; if you are a migrant worker or working somewhere, your work and work-life preoccupies your thoughts; if you are a parent, the concerns of your children and your family welfare keeps you occupied, etc. In the midst of your daily activities, God-talk rarely comes up in the conversation – unless your work has something to do with God and God’s business.

While that may be the case, the Christmas season is an exception. During the Christmas season, many of us get to think/talk about the heavenly God and the earthly God. Here, I would further suggest that it is through the life and birth of Jesus that we can talk or think about God in earthly terms – God who was born like one of us. On the day of Christmas (i.e., the birth of Jesus Christ), we witness the heavenly God becoming the earthly God. This is the intermingling of the sacred and the secular.

The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7

[The following texts will be read in light of John 1:14: the notion of Jesus becoming human and living with the humans, and we as witness to such a glorious act.]

The emperor Augustus commanded the citizens of his empire to register themselves. In response, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to register themselves. Mary was already with the promised child, and she was expecting. While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to deliver the child.

As they searched for lodging, the inn (or guest house) was all booked. The only available place at that time was a manger – an extension of a long house like the longhouses of the Nagas. In this extended house, Mary gave birth to her son, Jesus Christ.

Though Jesus was born in such an ordinary setting, he was no ordinary child. The child was promised in the Old Book. This promise was a part of the socio-religious tradition of the Jews. This promise is related with prophesies about him – of how he would save the world and the whole of humankind. In fact, a few years before Jesus was born, God even sent a great prophet to prepare the way for him.

In simple words, the Jewish people were expecting the promised Messiah. As they waited for him, they were hoping for a mighty warrior, king, or prophet (or all of it). But they couldn’t be more wrong! Jesus was not born in a royal family or in an upper-class family. Instead, he was born in a manger. He was born in a family that can be characterized as common people.

Measured by human standards of that time, he was no larger-than-life kind of figure – though his actions and teachings would change their thinking. Nonetheless, he sure was the expected Messiah. And it is in the birth of Jesus that we see God becoming like one of us. It is in and through Jesus that the distant heavenly God became the earthly God (cf. Jn 1:14).

The Shepherds and the Angels: Luke 2:8-20

Yet again, this news about the birth of Jesus – the Saviour, who is the Messiah – came not to those who are high and mighty. Instead, it came to the lowly – the shepherds. It came to people like us – and for people like us, common people.

During the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a group of shepherds near Bethlehem. They were watching over the flock by night – the ones who were left behind for the census. Instead of the wealthy, the Angels appeared before them, with the glory of the Lord shining around them. The shepherds were terrified. But the angels told them not to be afraid.

Instead, the angels assure them that they bring Good News for all people i.e., they bring Good News for them. The angels announced: today the promised Messiah is born in the city of David (i.e., Bethlehem). In addition to the declaration of the Good News, they were given hints to find the Messiah: a child will be found wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

When the announcement was made, there were a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. They were saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (v. 14). This is the ultimate declaration: the coming together of heaven and earth through the birth and declaration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.

Having declared the Good News, the angels disappeared into heaven. Then, the shepherds did not continue to set about their task. Instead, they decided to go to Bethlehem to witness the Messiah, which the Lord had made known to them. They went, found Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus who was lying in the manger.

Not only that, but the shepherds also told people about how the angels revealed to them about the baby. They shared the Good News of Jesus. And people were amazed! Witnessing all these, Mary treasured what was told of the baby (a confirmation of the sacrifice she made to give birth to the Messiah). The shepherds returned to their own field, with their heart’s content – glorifying and praising God for what they have seen and heard.

Preparing for Christmas

As we celebrate advent Christmas (i.e., as we prepare ourselves), I am aware that not many of us can celebrate Christmas conventionally. Unlike our home settings, Christmas celebrations will be very different in the city setting. As most of you would not get holidays, you may not even get the opportunity to go to church.

As you try to earn a living for you and your family, you may even mission out on community gathering i.e., the festive mood of communitarian society. As you live far away from your home setting, you may even feel alone or isolated in a city life.

Yet, regardless of this reality, I want to assure you that the Good News is for people like us. As the angels came and announced the Good News to the shepherds, may this Christmas come with the strong reminder that the Good News of heavenly God coming on earth is for us to embrace. As we embrace, may this Good News give us the strength to share the Good News with people around us – perhaps, that could be your landlord, colleague, or neighbours.

It may mean one of the following: if you are good with words, say some nice things to your friends and family; if you are good with hospitality, share a meal or invite some friends for dinner; if you are good with baking, bake some cakes; if you are good with praying, say a little prayer for your near and dear ones; if you are financially sound, help someone who needs it, and so on.

Yet, do these things (or more) out of your genuine heart knowing that the heavenly beings declared the Good News to people like us and for people like us. Knowing full well, take this time as an opportunity to connect with God – make it one of those days where you think about God and what God might have done for you or for your family.

And rather than just celebrating a cold-dry Christmas, do something about – make it a meaningful one, just like the shepherds did. I’d say that the shepherds could have ignored the Good News. But they didn’t. You don’t have to preach or spread the gospel or do something extraordinary. But you could, in your own ways, as a response to the Good News (i.e., the saviour is born), give a knock at Jesus (like the shepherds visited the Messiah in Bethlehem).


www.lumoproject.com LUMO Photo taken from www.freebibleimages.org

Taimaya is a contributive writer for BT based in Bangalore. He holds a PhD in Theology.