The events of the first Christmas would not sound out of place in a contemporary newspaper.
There is the pregnant Mary, a “vulnerable adult”, travelling far from home. It is not hard to imagine her anxiety about where she would give birth and how she could protect her child.
There is Jesus, a “child at risk”, born in unsanitary conditions who within days ends up a refugee as his parents flee the “ethnic cleansing” of King Herod and seek protection in Egypt.
Too often this year we have heard stories of vulnerable adults or children at risk. It is difficult to imagine the suffering of the 400,000 Syrian refugees camping in makeshift camps in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan this Christmas, or the grief being endured by the community of Newtown, Connecticut, over the murder of so many young children and their teachers.
The accounts of Mary and her baby touch our everyday human experience. The gift of new life evokes wonder and awe in even the most hardened of us. It speaks of the possibilities that the future offers and it gives hope.
But the birth of a tiny baby also speaks of the fragility of our lives. Whenever a baby’s life is threatened it provokes fear and rage in us. Instinctively, we want to defend the child and protect him or her. We become conscious of our mortality and realise how short and how precious life is.
Christians believe that this was no ordinary birth. I believe that in Jesus, God himself was entering into our human experience and sharing in our hopes for the future, as well as sharing our fragility and vulnerability. As the old carol sums it up: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonigh.”
May your hopes and fears be transformed by the Christ-child this Christmas, that you may know the peace of God.