That was the first Christmas. Two thousand years later, God's gift to man in the form of that child seems as strange as ever -- a child who was born to die. He never wielded any weapon but words; he never had wealth or political influence. His most devoted followers were mostly drawn from the rejects of society; the learned and powerful hated him for his scathing words against their hypocrisy and greed. Finally condemned by his own people, his sentence confirmed in one more dreary act of colonial oppression by an imperial power, he should have faded into the obscurity from which he came after he gasped out his life on a Roman cross.
He should have -- but he did not. Instead, he has become the central figure of human history. We may believe or reject the message that his disciples gave their lives to proclaim: that they had seen him risen as a living man and therefore knew that he was both the Son of God and the Redeemer who had saved them from their sins by his death. But none can deny that Jesus of Nazareth has affected more lives than all the conquerors and kings and sages of the earth put together, so that we divide time itself by his birth and give gifts in the season that bears his name. May each of you know the gift of the peace with God that he came to give.