The Oneonta Daily Star, Oneonta, New York
The star shines for everyone
It was just another birth, wasn’t it? That baby born to an unwed mother in a village at the edge of the Roman Empire. Nothing for the temples and palaces to take notice of, transfixed as they were by the hard glare of empire and commerce and the trappings of civilization.
And yet, this birth would move the world.
Why did the power brokers and gatekeepers of the age miss what was taking place? Or, in the case of King Herod, attempt to kill what they didn’t understand?
A few wakeful shepherds responded. They heard what others didn’t, a song of angels: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” A light was dawning, far greater than anything people had ever known or even imagined. It began to work a change in human hearts, a revolution of goodness and love still going on.
How often today do we overlook or try to quell what matters most to the welfare of humanity, the things that give meaning? Some say that all religion, including Christianity, is irrelevant, obsolete, outdated in the face of advances in physical science, and losing ground. People of various faiths or no faith at all may sometimes wonder themselves at the darkness when they see houses of worship no longer in use — or what can be worse, failing to live up to their highest ideals.
And yet, the meaning of Bethlehem is for all humanity — for Christians and non-believers and the faithful of other religions. It’s the meeting point of east and west, the promise of God’s goodness, coming quietly in the midst of darkness with tremendous moral and spiritual authority. “When it’s Christmas, we’re all of us magi,” the late Joseph Brodsky, a Russian Jewish poet and émigré to this country during the Soviet era, put it. Christ Jesus’ conviction about the worth of everyone as children of a loving God sent shock waves through the ancient world that still reverberate today.
What could be more relevant and needed today than this spiritual light, that pierces the darkness of evil, life by life, with the transforming power of God? “Midnight foretells the dawn,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Her still-revolutionary book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” upends sectarian faith with a call to fully understand God. She asked, “Is the wise man of today believed, when he beholds the light which heralds Christ’s eternal dawn and describes its effulgence?” Who is believed in your church, or mine, when the divine light and Love breaks through a hardened heart, softens character, redeems a life from sin, heals the sick?
To follow the path of goodness that Christmas points to, sets us on a course that much of the world still disdains or overlooks. And yet, something greater and more powerful than all the popular assumptions of the day is at work. “Herod reigns but the stronger he is, the more sure, the more certain the wonder,” as Joseph Brodsky saw. A “Spirit that’s Holy” for all of us to discover in ourselves and each other: “you stare / skyward, and it’s right there: a star.”
This spiritual light transcends even religious boundaries.
Van Driessen is a member of the Christian Science Committee on Publication for New York. The poem quoted is “December 24, 1971” by Joseph Brodsky.