by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
According to Luke's story, it's the angel's message to the shepherds that offers us the key to understanding from the faith perspective the mystery enfolded in a Child born in strange circumstances on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
It's night. An unfamiliar light illuminates the darkness covering Bethlehem. The light doesn't descend on the place where the Child is, but envelopes the shepherds who hear the message. The Child remains hidden in darkness, in an unknown place. One must make an effort to find Him.
These are the first words we hear: "Do not be afraid. I bring you Good News, great joy for all the people." Something very great has happened. We all have a reason to rejoice. That Child doesn't just belong to Mary and Joseph. He has been born for all of us. He doesn't just belong to a few privileged ones. He is for all people.
We Christians should not hoard this holiday. Jesus belongs to those who follow Him in faith and to those who have forgotten Him, those who trust in God and those who doubt it all. No one faces their fears alone. No one is alone in their loneliness. There's Someone who is thinking of us.
So the messenger proclaims: "Today a Savior is born unto you, the Messiah, the Lord." He isn't the son of the emperor Augustus, the world dominator, celebrated as savior and bearer of peace thanks to the power of his legions. The birth of a powerful man is not good news in a world where the weak are the victims of all sorts of abuse.
This Child is born among a people in submission to the Empire. They didn't have Roman citizenship. No one in Rome awaited His birth. But He is the Savior we need. He will not be at the service of any Caesar. He will not work for any empire. He will only seek the Kingdom of God and His justice. He will live to make life more humane. Through Him, this unjust world will find God's salvation.
Where is this Child? How can we recognize Him? This is what the messenger says: "Here is the sign for you: You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." The Child was born an outcast. His parents were not able to find a welcoming place for Him. His mother gave birth to Him without anyone's help. She herself, as best she could, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
God begins His adventure among men in this manger. We will not find Him among the powerful but among the weak. He isn't in the grand and spectacular but among the little ones and the poor. We must hear the message: let's go to Bethlehem; let's return to the roots of our faith. Let's look for God where He has become incarnate.