The relevance of Bethlehem
“He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…” (NRSV, John 1:11,12)
The relevance of the Christian religion is to be found at the point where it seems most irrelevant – at Christmas time. What two things could be farther removed, at first sight, than the Christmas narrative and our current age? And it is not merely a question of over 2000 long years separating them. There are other and apparently irreconcilable differences.
On the one hand we have the tranquil fairy-like picture of a Baby born in a stable one starlit night; of a cluster of shepherds on the hills outside; of angels singing of peace and goodwill.
And, in violent contrast, we have the brutal unsentimentality of our modern scene – two World Wars and their legacies, ongoing civil wars in different parts of the world, torture, human trafficking, terrorism and the desperation of those fleeing their homelands to escape conflict and the constant threat of death. The sight of man’s appalling inhumanity to man is evident almost daily on our television screens.
And yet it is Bethlehem which alone makes sense of this age in which we live.