The Christmas season is upon us once again and it is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago. This is the most celebrated birthday in the world and it is celebrated even by non religious people. In the past weeks, people were busy shopping and planning for this great day and some have already travelled places to meet friends and relatives to celebrate Christmas together. Every year in the Christian liturgy we read the birth narratives of Jesus Christ and what surprises me is the fact that no matter how many times I have read and heard the stories, each year they are new to me.

This year's Christmas gospel is from Luke 2:1-14 and four things from this text fascinate me. First, is the decree by the Emperor Augustus that all people should be registered in their home towns. This is both a political and administrative decree but in the process God's promise is being fulfilled. This was the decree that made Joseph and Mary travel to their home town Bethlehem in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. This is how God works in our lives; He fulfils His will on earth through our daily work and activities. Second, Jesus is born in a humble place – an animal pen and is laid in a manger.

This is the most uncomfortable place for someone to give birth. No woman would want to give birth in such a place with the smell of dung and the biting of mosquitoes. Instead of the baby being laid in a nice and a decorated bed, He is laid in a feeding trough-manger. God comes to us in humble ways beyond our comprehension; from the feeding trough comes out our salvation and this is the story of Christmas.

Third, the good news of the birth of the messiah first reaches the shepherds who are out in the pastures tending animals. The message is not first send to the palace or to the temple officials who were the centres of power during that time. It goes out first to the marginalized people in the society who endure difficult weather conditions while in the pastures. It is those marginalized people that Jesus first identifies with. He is born in the environment they are familiar with - animal pen and it is easier for the shepherds to receive Jesus as one of their own. This is the reason why Jesus would often identify Himself with the shepherd metaphor more than any other metaphor. He was born among the sheep and was first welcomed by the shepherds.

Fourth, the host of angels suddenly appears praising God and this reminds the shepherds that Jesus was coming to them not just as a mere shepherd like them but as God. Through the birth of Jesus, the two worlds are united; the heavenly realm and our physical world. In the story of the incarnation comes our salvation and this message remains relevant to us even in the 21st century. We celebrated our last Christmas year with much hope as we were gaining ground on eliminating the threats of Covid 19 and this year a new challenge emerged -the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

History always reminds us that we cannot live in a world free from problems and we are not in total control of our destiny. Just like the sheep, human beings are not able to save themselves hence the need for a messiah. Our redemption comes from the one who came from the Father to live with us and after fulfilling his mission on earth is back to Father where he is sitting on the right hand. Let us continue to pray for peace and love among people during this festive season. I shall conclude with the collect for Christmas:

Eternal God, who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of your one true light: bring us, who have known the revelation of that light on earth, to see the radiance of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.