二○二○年十二月十二日/十三日 Click here for English version
The Great Joy from Heaven to Bethlehem That Night
Rev Patrick Wong
Where is joy? Can we still see or experience it in the current circumstances?
All around us, we see masks, shields, Zoom, numbers of confirmed cases, salary freezes or reductions, lay-offs, class suspensions, shop and business closures. No more travels, no tourists, but more talk about and applications for emigration. In such an atmosphere, where is real joy? Anxiety, frustration and sadness is more real.
The historical event of the birth of Christ more than 2,000 years ago sheds light on this question. That night, the little town of Bethlehem was in difficulty. But then in that little known corner of the world, there came heavenly joy that reaches afar.
Herod, as King of the Jews under the Roman Empire, was asked by the Magi from the east, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). Herod was troubled. After he had learned from the chief priests and scribes that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, he instructed that all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under be killed. Yet amid all the gloom and impending massacre, the star of Bethlehem led the Magi to Jesus. The Bible says: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (2:10). To them, the star embodied their hope for Christ. They “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). They were content and rejoiced greatly. Not so for King Herod and the learned religious leaders who did not pin hopes in Christ.
The same night in the suburbs of Bethlehem, the glory of the Lord shone round about some night-shift shepherds in the field, and they were sore afraid – How can one not be scared when an angel appeared in the darkness out of the blue? When they were still in panic, they heard the angel say, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (2:10-11). And suddenly a great company of the heavenly host joined in praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (2:14).
That heavenly message of joy was only sent to a group of anonymous, humble shepherds who kept watch near Bethlehem. They were like the security staff and night-shift convenient store shopkeepers of today. But they became the first group to “qualify” for receiving heavenly peace and were loved by God. Joy surpasses adversities and the pandemic. It also has nothing to do with reputation, money or power from the perspective of the world.
This Christmas, may everyone in different corners see the star of hope and hear the soul-soothing carol “Silent Night.” May they be filled with the joy that comes with an encounter with Christ.