Responding to the "Punchline" of the Story?
Christmas prompts us to remember the long-ago birth of a baby boy. Even after the passage of over 2,000 years, this baby’s remarkable story continues to provide hope.
The story tells about a dark-skinned, Jewish baby who arrived during a dangerous time in Judea history. After hearing news about a baby born in Bethlehem, King Herod sent Magi to locate him. Herod’s harsh leadership and lies had already created a climate of distrust. However, the story continues by stating that an angel appeared to the baby’s father, urging him to take the mother and child and seek asylum in Egypt. After King Herod heard that the family could not be found, he ordered the killing of all boys ages two and under who could be found in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
According to the story, the young couple and their baby thus became immigrants fleeing for their lives. Most likely, they lived in poverty with little to show in terms of wealth or prestige. Common, humble people, raised their sons in the Jewish tradition. History reveals that regardless of a lack of material or social importance, the child grew into a remarkable man. Remarkable enough, after more than 2,000 years, he continues to be an agent of change.
How can this story possibly provide hope for us today? We too live in harsh and dangerous times. Suspicions and lies permeate a climate of fear. Just as the young couple faced cruel leadership, we too have many families frightened of those in control. Like the young parents, we have immigrants traveling wretched miles, risking dangers and even death to plead for safe asylum and to seek better lives for children. As in the time of King Herod, we too witness terror and probably life-long damages to young children. Many times, we also turn our backs on the suffering of others.
And yet, even after 2,000 years, the Christ Child continues to send a message of hope. Today, as in days gone by, the baby’s message tells us to feed the hungry, welcome the homeless, and visit those in prison. His message declares that within each person a sacred spirit lives. Each of us gets to decide whether to follow King Herod into existence of fear or follow the message of a baby who came to proclaim love.
Atrocities toward others have occurred throughout the ages. Often, as individuals, we feel powerless. The Good News; the Christmas message assures us that when we do what we can to help those in need, we live with peaceful hearts. Even in the struggle to help, we can relax knowing that kindness has a life of its own and will not be snuffed out by cruelty.
Each time we stand up for our ideals; each time we choose humans over money and material possessions, we send a small ripple of hope. All those ripples will ultimately converge. Jesus, a small, Jewish baby grew up to change the social and political equation. Today, any time we take small actions with loving hearts, we too change the equation of injustice. The story of the Christ Child does not let us off the hook. The good news – the “punch line” of the Christmas story insists that love and peace ultimately win over evil. I wonder what might come about during this season if we all remembered the message of love given to us by a baby. The hope of the story rests in this message.
Matthew 2:1-18 “The Magi Visit the Messiah.” New International Version.
Rigby, Jim. “The Meek Will Inherit the Earth.” December 2, 2018.