Last week, I visited Sierra Leone very briefly, far too briefly in fact. The purpose of the visit was to meet and talk with faith leaders who have been among those leading the struggle against Ebola. What a difference! Living their lives at risk, passionately and deeply involved in the people around them, they demonstrated a love and a reaching out to the grieving, to the ill and to the frightened that was utterly inspiring. The orphans of Ebola are being cared for, not least due to the generosity from this country. All those I met spoke of that.
What made the difference? The war lords claimed to be Christians, but left no space for Jesus in their lives. On the first Christmas, the shepherds, kings, Mary and Joseph, took the decision to allow God to take the central space in their lives; God who gave them every choice and freedom by revealing Himself space for in the form of a helpless baby. We still remember them for their joy, their generosity, their sacrificial self-giving. King Herod refused space in life for anyone except himself and we remember him for his cruelty.
For me, in all the busyness of Christmas there is one essential: that I gaze again at the reality of Jesus, God himself, in human and helpless form, who comes to rule and reign in this world, not by force but by love, and that seeing Him, I give Him His rightful place in my life.