How could we put this gospel into today's world? If Jesus was born today, one possibility is that Joseph would be a car mechanic with a workshop in the back streets of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, or Palestine, depending on your politics. He and his young wife, Mary, had an arranged marriage that caused scandal and sniggering because of the age difference, and the fact that she was pregnant. There was pressure on them from the regime in charge of the city, and they ended up having to leave Ramallah, which is not a safe place, and ended up in a refugee camp, maybe in Lebanon, where Mary's child was born.
Why is this like the gospel we've just heard? Because the family is powerless. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not a family that had contacts, or money, and the influence that money buys. They had to sleep rough, even when Mary is giving birth. In Luke's story the only people who visit are down and outs, the shepherds.
All human babies are totally dependant on their mothers, on adults, for survival. All babies are powerless - but some babies are more powerless than others, and the baby Jesus is about as powerless as it's possible to be. I’m sure there are babies today in Gaza, in Ukraine, or in refugee camps who are just as powerless.
Of course, all babies are powerless, and yet they have one wonderful gift. They have the gift of opening our hearts, and inspiring love and joy in those around them.
At our Christmas celebrations, how happy are we if there are babies and children present. Seeing the life and innocence the delight and joy of babies and children at Christmas is normally what makes our celebrations memorable. They open our hearts to love.
Joseph and Mary were not powerful, or rich, or famous in their lives. They were not celebrities, and although Jesus achieved some notoriety in his life on earth, in the end he was executed as a convicted criminal, a danger to public order and safety, to homeland security.
We can be tempted to believe that the important people are those who are rich, powerful, celebrities.
Christmas reminds us God is not interested in how rich we are, how many people are our Facebook friends, how many followers we have on Twitter, or ‘X’, or instagram.
God invites us to look at the world around us, and have the vision to see God in the powerless - babies and children, ordinary people, those whose lives have been devastated by war, whether that be in Israel, Palestine, Gaza or Ukraine, those around the world whose lives might be a mess and those who struggle to make sense of the world and just keep going.
The good news about Christmas is that God shows us that the almighty God is with the powerless, with those whose lives are a struggle, who aren't famous or rich or even good looking. Let's face it, that's really good news for most of us! God, the God of power and might, emptied himself to take flesh as a powerless baby. As a baby, he opened hearts to love. In his teaching, his ministry, he taught us that whatever we do for the least among us, for the weak and the powerless, we do for him. May we all have a wonderful Christmas where we have the gift of open and generous hearts.