In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump, while Mike Pence was vice-president and while Theresa May led England and Justin Trudeau led Canada and while Vladimir Putin ruled Russia and Mohammed bin Salman dominated Saudi Arabia; while Mitch McConnell led the United States Senate and John Roberts was the head of America’s highest court, it came to pass that Christians around the world gathered in their often modest, frequently tiny and unremarkable churches to celebrate the birthday of a peasant who had once been known as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary whose husband was Joseph.
The world was in many places in an uproar even as the nations raged. Princes who fancied themselves rulers of all they surveyed dropped bombs on the innocent and killed their enemies and starved helpless children by the millions. Trade wars consumed the economies of many lands and fiery threats of war emanated from the capitals of many countries. The news was consumed with government shutdowns and political mayhem even as social media roared with insults, arguments, and the fracturing of many people’s sense of shalom.
Meanwhile, the Christians gathered. They sang “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World.” They remembered the virgin with her miracle child, said to be the Son of God. They remembered shepherds–whose names history never knew or long ago forgot–who came to see the thing of which angels had told them–had told them, little old anonymous them. The Christians remembered everything that happened far away from Caesar Augustus or Caesar Tiberius, King Herod or Quirinius or all of the other powerful people whose names and acts and stories filled the news headlines of also that time.
They remembered that salvation came to this earth not from the citadels of power, not because of the machinations of politics, and not from the ones whose names history remembers but from the backwaters of a podunk little place called Bethlehem and from a little child who was as vulnerable as any infant this very day.
And so for a little while those modest Christians in their modest churches–from secret house churches in China to thatched-roof gathering places in Africa, from urban cathedrals in Toronto to white-clapboard churches in the hollers of Arkansas–those Christians took their eyes off the splashy, flashy news stories of the day and tuned out the arguments of the powerful to remember where true hope comes from, where real salvation is found, and to recall that the God and Father of Jesus Christ the Lord is so very often the God of small things who notices the orphan and the alien, the widow and the homeless. They celebrated again that the real greatness of their God comes not from the big things he can do but as often as not from the smallest things he has done and keeps doing far away from the media spotlight or the headline-grabbing antics of this world.
The Christians gathered and they remembered and so found once more the deepest, most lasting source of peace. Peace on earth.