Centuries of hope in God’s promise have come to fulfilment when the Messiah was born!
Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth (Gospel) begins by placing the event during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Luke very deliberately points out that it is during the rule of Augustus, the “saviour, god and peace-maker”, that Jesus the Christ, the long-awaited Saviour and Messiah, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, enters human history.
Typical of Luke’s Gospel, it is the shepherds of Bethlehem — among the poorest and most disregarded of Jewish society who become the first messengers of the Gospel. From the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel, we have a romantic image of shepherds as gentle, peaceful figures. But that manger scene image is a far cry from the reality: The shepherds of Biblical times were tough, earthy characters who fearlessly used their clubs to defend their flocks from wolves and other wild animals. They had even less patience for the pompous scribes and Pharisees who treated them as second and third-class citizens, barring these ill-bred rustics from the synagogue and courts.
And yet it was to shepherds that God first revealed the birth of the Messiah. The shepherds’ vision on the Bethlehem hillside proclaims to all people of every place and generation that Christ comes for the sake of all of humankind.
It was while they were busy doing the ordinary work of their lives – that the angels appeared to them.
She is rather small! Petite, soft-spoken and sophisticated. But in my mind, she towers above everyone else. Her name is Chrissie Olivier.
We were going through a very tough time as a family during the last three years of my senior school education and it affected me deeply. I found catharsis in creative writing. I envisioned a better life and the words kept flowing onto every paper I set my hands to.
I also felt increasingly isolated from my peers.
The only place I felt safe and able to express myself without fear of being rejected was in her class.
She touched me on my shoulder and looked me in my eyes and then she said: “You are so gifted. You must not stop writing. Your English is so good!” She was my English teacher in the late 1980’s.
This woman – so small in stature – lifted this heavily depressed soul from the dungeons of self-pity and isolation. She gave me permission to be me … and she believed in me! I will always be grateful to her.
You see – she did not do anything extraordinary! She simply did the ordinary well. In that moment this ordinary teacher was used by God to do an extraordinary thing. She did nothing more than live her life with faithfulness and love, but God used the small seeds of her daily routine to change a life forever.
In that moment, I came to believe that no matter where you live and no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, God can reach into your life and give your life purpose and meaning.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus – friend of the lowly and the marginalized, the one who identifies with the poor, the one who used the side-lined shepherds to be his mouthpiece, and the one who equips the voiceless to herald Good News for all – it is my prayer that we shall be a Chrissie Olivier to those around us. My prayer is that we shall do the best we can in our ordinary day-to-day lives and work to build others up and propel them into a life of peace, hope, joy and love.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas