It is now over 2000 years since our Lord and Saviour was born, born in one of the tiniest countries in the world, Israel. The whole country is only 461 miles long. Nazareth is about 60 miles from Jerusalem, near a small lake called the Sea of Galilee where one can easily see from one shore to the other.
For most people, Christmas day is a time to feast, a time to give gifts, and (which is more important to many people) to receive them! But on the day of Christ’s birth there seemed little to rejoice about. Mary was very young –perhaps 17 years old –and a virgin; so you can imagine how afraid she must have been to find herself pregnant! Her husband Joseph eked out a small living as a carpenter, but he must have been a wise and compassionate man to believe in the morality of the teenager he was betrothed to! As they made the slow journey to his family’s birthplace, Bethlehem, to pay their taxes, can you imagine how uncomfortable it was for Mary, near her due time, riding a donkey? And in the end finding that the only place to stay was the stable of a poor inn. No bed –only a cold floor shared with animals. No sanitary conditions, not even sheets for the baby, just a manger filled with straw. What an entry into this world for a King!
That baby grew into a man who began his ministry at the age of 30. Yet he owned nothing. He walked everywhere (or borrowed a donkey), had no home of his own, and relied on others for food and lodging. When Herod, a cruel tyrant, heard two years later that a king had been born in Bethlehem, he ordered all children aged two and under to be killed. But Mary and Joseph had been forewarned, and escaped to Egypt until it was safe to return to Nazareth.
God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. That baby’s humble birth resulted in two billion Christians, with you, dear reader, numbered among them. But let us remember what that first Christmas was really all about –not feasting and presents, but God’s priceless gift to us; peace and heavenly joy through the gift of Christ our Saviour.
by Rev. James O. Wilson
James Wilson was born in England and served in the British army for three years. Ordained in 1949, he ministered in South Africa and Rhodesia before going to Ontario in 1955. He joined the United Church in 1969, serving in Burnaby, Beaconsfield and Narramata, B.C. after one year at Simon Fraser University and three years at Union College. His 9-year ministry in Nelson B.C. had to be terminated in 1986 when he suffered two strokes, but he remained there for 26 years before retiring to Herbert, Saskatchewan. Now it is the people of Alberta who are very fortunate to have Jim as their Outreach Correspondent.