Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible says
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas Day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new king born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas Day
While shepherds watch their flocks by night
They see a brand new shining star
They hear a choir sing a song
The music seemed to come from afar
Now Josef and his wife Mary
They come to Bethlehem that night
They have no room to bear the child
Not a single room was inside
Passing by they found a little nook
In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark
Mary’s little boy was born
Trumpets sound, an angel sing
Listen to what they say
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious peace-building coalition, is convening hundreds of religious leaders, practitioners, scholars, government agencies and foundations in New York City on 11 December to co-develop global peace-building priorities for the next five years.
“When religious communities work together for the common good, they are a powerful force for peace and development,” said Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Secretary General, a.i. of Religions for Peace. “Today there is greater need than ever before for communities of faith to act on our spiritual authority and deep community connections to advance peace and development. This is why we are convening religious leaders from all over the world to co-develop priorities in multi-religious peace-building for the coming years.”
The event will be open to the press on 11 December and religious leaders from more than 50 countries in every region of the world will strategically determine priorities for the future of the renowned organization. Themes discussed will include climate solutions through the protection of indigenous peoples, overcoming gender-based violence, procuring the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and philanthropy’s role in boosting interfaith peace-building efforts.
Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years.
In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities.
“The people in Muslim-dominated Brunei are quite tolerant and very easy to get along with, but the government is fearful of outside religions,” said one Western expatriate who fears Brunei’s harsh defamation laws and declined to give his name. Increasingly, foreign Christians working in Brunei spend Christmas time outside the Islamic country and return only in the new year.”
From the womb of Mother Church, the incarnate Son of God is born anew this night. His name is Jesus, which means: “God saves”. The Father, eternal and infinite Love, has sent him into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (cf. Jn 3:17). The Father has given him to us with great mercy. He has given him to everyone. He has given him forever. The Son is born, like a small light flickering in the cold and darkness of the night… Jesus the light of the world.
This is why the prophet cries out: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.
May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centred hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.
Read the full version of His Holiness Pope’s message; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20191225_urbi-et-orbi-natale.html
[The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”] ~ Luke 2:10-14
Glory to God in the highest! The celebration of the glorious birth of Christ the Lord has begun…Merry Christmas!
Try to put yourself in the shoes of these shepherds. Little excitement would have regularly come their way. They were poor, simple shepherds who spent their days and nights tending the sheep of the fields. That night, a group of them had gathered together for camaraderie. It’s easy to imagine the scene of normal talking, laughing and being together. Little did they realize what was about to happen.
As they were gathered, an angel of God appeared to them announcing “good news of great joy!” They must have been stunned. But that’s only the beginning. The angel announced that the Savior of the World had been born and then, much to their surprise, they witnessed the whole host of heavenly angels singing praises: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” “Glory to God in the highest!”
These humble shepherds were the first to be called by God to go and greet the newborn King. What’s amazing is that God did not first call the “important” of the age to come worship. He called these poor shepherds.Read More »
As a newborn, Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room in a proper shelter. And He was in that manger when the shepherds visited.
Not so with the Wise Men, however.
We’re introduced to the Wise Men (or Magi) in the Gospel of Matthew:
[After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”] ~ Matthew 2:1-2
Now, that word “after” at the beginning of verse 1 is kind of ambiguous. How long after? A day? A week? A few years?
Fortunately, we can infer from two pieces of evidence in the text that the Wise Men visited Jesus at least a year after His birth, and probably closer to two years. First, notice the details of Jesus’ location when the Wise Men did show up bearing their gifts:
[After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.] ~ Matthew 2:9-12 (emphasis added)Read More »