For Jesus

For Jesus, whose arrival in this world we will commemorate: in our hearts if outward celebration is banned, and Communion is denied to the faithful. It is hard to keep God out of the world that He made, and transcends from the beginning to the end of time. It is difficult even to smear Him, and such efforts rebound against themselves. Even crucifying Him turned out badly for the Roman State, if we take a candid view. For Jesus is still here, and the Roman State isn’t. Were I a political advisor to a Caesar, I would recommend against persecution. This on purely practical grounds. For His opponents have had a poor track record against Him, and looking back, none have prevailed. “I wouldn’t count your chances.”

From the start, Our Saviour defeated expectations. Mary’s Child resembled all babies. In particular, I note, babies are powerless. This one, born in a Bethlehem manger to a couple from out of town, was in this respect like the rest of us. Our own nativities were usually fairly humble. The choice of mother and father was not made by us. Jesus alone chooses. For the rest, whether they decide to welcome or abort us, we will not be consulted.

I am deeply moved by the story of the shepherds; of the angel who announces Him to them. It would seem that God is partial to shepherds. Out in the fields, on warm nights or cold, they have a privileged view of His starry Creation.

They were dazzled, and naturally afraid; the announcing angel told them, “Fear not.” This was the first expressly Christian command.

“Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born a Saviour.”

Our history then divides in two; into a Before and an After.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.”

That last point is vexed, or was vexed intentionally, by modern liturgists. They like to mistranslate “men of good will” to “all people” again. But the angel made an important distinction.

The Child grows. We have known a few more things about Him over the last twenty centuries or so, in this world transformed by His arrival. There is a political point that is worth making.

He is self-referential, and refers to Himself, unambiguously, as if He were God. This was as alarming to his contemporaries as it is to us. Many then, as now, thought Him a shrieking madman; although He didn’t shriek. Rather, He cultivated understatement. He did not like to show His credentials, though when necessary, through miracles, He did. He spoke in the same knowledge as the angel of Shepherds’ Field.

Why are there shepherds? Because sheep will stray. And there are wolves.

My political point is about Christ’s claims. His Kingship was, and is, and will be, “not of this world.” He actually dodges earthly kingship. He avoided arrest for the duration of His mission, but also avoided the enthusiasm of his followers. When they were on the verge of proclaiming Him a king — some Lord of Palestine — He walked away. He’d disappear from what was turning into a rally; duck into a temple or other private place. He went to some lengths to avoid misunderstanding; yet was tacked to a Cross by those who misunderstood. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Father, forgive. It will be Christmas, very soon, when we start over. May we be reborn, in You.