Regardless of anyone's religion, Jesus still loves all of us equally
Thought for the weekend
Christmas 2016 is now past but we can carry the memory and spirit of Christmas with us into the New Year - the spirit of love and goodwill, thoughtfulness and generosity, warmth and friendship. In particular, there will be thoughts of the birth of Jesus in a feeding-trough in a stable in Bethlehem: of the angels singing, 'Glory to God in the highest', and the shepherds hastening to the stable. The familiar and beautiful Christmas Carols may still resound inspirationally in our hearing.
Even as we take down the Christmas decorations, put away the Christmas cards, and dismantle the Christmas tree, we remember that two-thousand years ago a little child was born in meagre circumstances to a humble Jewish couple from Nazareth in Galilee. Though the surroundings were unusual, sparse and inauspicious, the event itself was singular in its uniqueness. It was the most momentous and important event in the history of the Universe. God came to earth in human form.
From that moment, whether in the manger in Bethlehem, or in the Carpenter's shop in Nazareth, or indeed in living our lives in the twenty-first century, those who encountered Jesus encountered God. How important it is that we carry that thought and truth with us as we enter a new year and new challenges.
In the Christian Calendar, yesterday was The Epiphany - when Christians around the world celebrated the 'manifestation' or 'showing forth' of the baby Jesus to all mankind. In every respect, with one exception, the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas Day was a Jewish event. Mary and Joseph were Jews. The shepherds were Jews. Bethlehem - the City of David - was Jewish. Jesus was circumcised in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
However, Epiphany was about the visit of the Wise Men, or Magi, to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The Magi were not Jews. They came from a land in the East, and from a religion which was not Jewish: and their worship and gifts were accepted. They were Gentiles but were received by Jesus, demonstrating that Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus came for all mankind.
Here is a great truth for every person today. Mankind comprises individuals and groups of many creeds, classes and colours. Epiphany tells us clearly that Jesus came for everyone without distinction.
Every person is included in the loving purposes of God. Epiphany adds a crucial dimension to the Christmas story - Jesus is the universal Saviour Messiah.
Epiphany affirms that Jesus is not sectional or sectarian in any way. His reach is universal and his unerring love is for every person without exception. There is no preferential treatment for any person - Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist or agnostic. All are loved equally by the infant in the manger.
Christmas tells us again of the love of the Christ-child. Epiphany tells us that the child of Bethlehem is for every person!