By Father Dominic Emmanuel
Dec 24, 2010
Ever since Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, the story of his birth has been narrated over and over again, not just in words but also through poetry, paintings, songs, radio dramas, classical dance forms, small and big films and through many other art forms. The real narration of his birth though, as portrayed in the Gospel of St. Luke, is rather simple as: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was the governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’”.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to people of good will”. When the angels had left them and gone to the heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing has happened, which the Lord has told us about”. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all those who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:1-20).
Though the message of Jesus’ birth with a clear emphasis on peace was first given to the simple shepherds, probably illiterate and surely quite poor, prophecies about him had begun to emerge almost 800 years before his birth. According to Biblical exegetes, the Jewish scriptures, which now form part of the Bible, had already foretold about the birth of the Messiah and the way he would live and die. Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament called him, “Prince of Peace”, whose “Kingdom will always have peace”. According to him, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den (Isaiah 11:7-8)”. The description paints a picture of society and nature living in perfect peace and harmony.
In His lifetime, Jesus constantly spoke about and worked for peace. Imparting one of his many gifts to his disciples, Jesus said to them: “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does (John 14:27)”. Similarly in His famous “Sermon on the Mount”, which greatly inspired Mahatma Gandhi and helped him firm up his “non-violent” movement, he proclaimed: “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children, (Matthew 5:9)”.
In a world so torn apart by different conflicts arising out of manipulation, exploitation, using people to climb up, cheating, corruption, murder, rape, violence, war, terrorist attacks; hunger and poverty, humanity appears sometimes to have lost the direction. It is still searching for peace that seems to be elusive. The message of Christmas by the angel to the shepherds — “Peace on earth to people of goodwill” — is a call to everyone to become people of “goodwill” by cooperating with the “Prince of Peace” who would love to fill the hearts of all those who desperately seek inner and external peace.
— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Asian Age