My understanding of Jesus’ Birth story in Luke’s Gospel had changed over the years from when I was a child to now. When I was a small child, I remembered the Christmas season being one of my favorites. Not because it is Christmas Day, but I like the activities that surrounded Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, the children from both the West and East side of my village. They would gather with lit candles and start the service with a Christmas Eve March to walk to the church, located in the village center. You would hear Christmas carols and hymns singing throughout the village on this day. My favorite Christmas Carol was always Angels we have heard on high.
Once gathered at the church, in the churchyard, the pastor, parents, Sunday School teachers, and the whole village had gathered to welcome and exchange Happy Christmas cheers with one another. We were seated on the grassy lawn for the Christmas Eve service. After the formal speeches, we watched the youth’s dramas of the birth of Christ. We also have a Santa Claus guest visitor. His presence means that every child will receive a small gift to take home. This small gift is either a little bag of candy or a balloon. Our Sunday School teachers can only afford these gifts with their family budgets. I didn’t care much for the sweets, but I always loved to receive a Balloon.
I always looked forward to marching home with the most oversized balloon from the church Christmas tree that I had picked when it was my turn to receive gifts. I didn’t’ care much about the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas story of baby Jesus was like a fairy tale, for I replaced the angels with fairies. Christmas was my favorite season of the year, partly because it is the only time Santa Clause visited my Sunday School party to hand out bags of free candies and balloons for us little kids. Balloons were my favorite toy growing up. I can do a lot of things with my balloon when it burst. I can make smaller balloons with extra pieces of the balloon, so it was always my favorite.
The part that informs my faith was the Christmas play. As a youth, I was one of the narrators of the birth of Christ story in Luke’s Gospel. Much to my disappointment, I always had wanted to play Mary because she didn’t have many lines to memorize. Here, I learned about the birth story of Jesus Christ as narrated by the Gospel of Luke.
However, as I grew up, my thought on the birth of Jesus started to change. When I was in tenth grade, I took my first biology class. I was fascinated with micro-biology and cell growth. I learned about how embryos are formed and became babies. With my new understanding, I struggled to understand Jesus’ birth story as significant independent from harming Mary, his mother’s reputation. From what I learned, the birth story of Jesus defies science, and it does not follow the natural order of conceiving a child. At sixteen years old, I was very uncomfortable with this story. When I put myself in Mary’s shoes, this is a scandal, and her story would be in the headline in the daily gossip in our little village. I was troubled with this question. Is the birth story of Jesus sacred or scandal? According to my Christian moral ethics, it is a scandal. Why is this story becomes a holy story of my faith, my parents’ faith, and my ancestors’ faith?
Many years had passed since I grew older and read into the scripture to learn more of God’s nature. Gospel John informs me, God is love. One must have love to find, know, and understand God. (1 John 4:7-21). God wants us to love one another, including our enemies, people different from us in political views, gender, sexual orientations, ages, and abilities.
The depth of God’s love is beyond the limit of logic, more precise than any scientific hypothesis, and is inclusive to contextual social moralities. The birth story of Christ is a love story of God who is willing to give His all to redeem and provide hope to His beloved. With Jesus, God demonstrated His love for all people.
The Christmas story, I thought it was a fairy tale as a kid, and a scandalous gossip as a teenager, is a beautiful story of God’s mighty acts of love to give the world a gift, a baby boy, Jesus, to redeem and save humankind from hopelessness and death. Jesus was born in a lowly animal barn and raised by a poor humble couple. Jesus had lived life to the fullness of God’s intentions. He stayed faithful to his teachings of God’s righteousness and justice.
Consequently, he went through great suffering and death because of the evil of humankind, and thus in this lifegiving act, Jesus redeemed and gave hope to humanity. In this season of Advent, our hearts are deeply troubled in this time of uncertainty. We must never lose heart, and we must be steadfast in faith and stay in love with our God and one another. When we do, all our fears and doubts are gone, replaced with the peace and joy of the season.
Happy Advent! Merry Christmas! and Happy New Year, friends and neighbors!
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa