The Christmas star has come for the first time in 800 years. The same phenomenon that guided the three wise men to the manger where the baby Jesus lay has shone above us in a hopeful moment of this year of turmoil and death. Over two thousand years later we still pause each year to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet who would teach us how to live and then sacrifice his own life to save us from our sins. The convergence of planets that heralded a great event on that night of long ago is a reminder of the example and lessons that Jesus gave us. If we are willing to stop our bickering long enough to ponder his words and his actions perhaps we may find a way to heal our souls even as we seek ways to prevent more suffering and death from Covid-19.
I am a Catholic, a Christian, a believer in the miracle of Jesus for he was indeed the way, the truth and the light. His ideas need not be linked only with religious institutions. His teachings are universal and capable of transforming the entire world into a place of peace and love if we humans are willing to accept his guidance in its purest form. Put quite simply he told us over and over again that there need only be one rule and that is to love one another just as we would want others to love us.
Jesus spurned many of the edicts of his time, both political and religious, in favor of the unconditional love of which he often spoke. He showed us that people were more important than power and titles. He healed on the Sabbath, fed the poor, embraced the lepers, He lived a simple life and asked his followers to do so as well. He loved Samaritans and tax collectors and outcasts equally and without judgement. When the elders of his Jewish faith clucked their tongues at his flaunting of their laws he reminded them that his new way of living in peace and harmony was a way of embracing all people at all times. He performed miracles not for his own benefit or power but always to help those who were suffering.
Christmas Even will be quiet for most of us this year. Many will be alone with the members of their households rather than partying with large groups. We will have the time to meditate on what the life of Jesus really meant for humankind. We will be able to consider ways that each of us might be more like him, without self righteousness or control. If we walk beside him in our hearts surely we will see that our goal for the coming year should be to be compassionate and loving even toward those whom we do not understand.
I have often considered how wonderful it would be to sit next to Jesus for an hour. There are so many questions that I would like to ask him. I want to know if he thinks that we are following his word the way he wanted or if we have distorted his views to fit our own. I would like to hear his ideas of how he really wants us to live. I would ask him who the best examples of his teaching are in today’s world. I would want to find out how he thinks we have done things right and how we should change. I would sit quietly and listen to the greatest teacher of all time and attempt to learn from him. I would want him to be honest about what my personal responsibilities should be. It would be a blessed and enlightening time.
I sometimes compare myself to the apostle Thomas. I am curious but also wary. I question everything and require proof before accepting theories. I have a difficult time following someone or some idea wholeheartedly but when I strip down the story of the life of Jesus it seems so apparent to me that he kept things simple, not complex. We humans are the ones who have taken his word and turned it into ceremonies and rules and divisions that separate us from one another. His way was organic and beautiful. It needed nothing more than his gentleness and understanding. Sadly we often forget that.
On this day read of the humble beginnings of Jesus of Nazareth. Meditate on his life and his teachings. Think of what they really told us and then pledge to live like him, not from inside a church building or sets of rules that exclude or indict others but from a spreading of love to everyone that you encounter. That is what happened on that night in Bethlehem in the long ago when the Christmas star shone over a manger where two simple people welcomed their son. Love was born and his name was Jesus. The world rejoices that he came to show us how to live. Now it is time to follow his example and spread the love.