It is the season of nativity plays all across the world. In the run up to Christmas, children, and their unfortunate parents, are pulled to a stage to portray a well-known albeit poorly understood story. This writer went one step further this year, from attending such a play to starring in one. As the Angel Gabriel, I had the enviable job of announcing the incredulous — a Virgin is to conceive and birth a son — credibly enough to be believed by cast and audience. Fiction for some, an interesting tale for others, and a source of wondrous joy for others still.
The story of Jesus has baffled many and it is hard to understand, why seeing as he is one of the most researched characters in history. If the accounts of the gospel writers are accurate, and there is research to show that they are, then Jesus was either crazy, a fraud or omniscient. His words distressed some of his audience so significantly they sought to seize and kill him multiple times. If he was simply mad, then I don’t suspect anyone would have paid much attention. Who, after all, chases after a harmless lunatic? If he was a fraud, then he should have been caught out sooner rather than later. The Gospel accounts state that twelve men, and some, left their day jobs to follow him night and day for three and a half years. Then, they put their lives in danger afterwards to tell his story. Many died telling that story. No one sacrifices their life for a lie. If, however, he was omniscient, then we should have been listening since yesterday.
I have always considered myself something of a truth seeker. Those who profess to speak the truth have always been worth listening to. Truth is one word that featured quite prominently in Jesus’ more famous descriptions of himself. It is one thing for someone to profess to speak the truth, it is quite another for that person to declare himself the truth. Yet, the Carpenter’s Son, as some called him, would make many a bold assertion about his identity. As a teenager exploring the boundaries of the faith of the family I was born into, I did ask many questions of Jesus. On one such evening, while at University and walking back from my lectures, I looked up into the night sky and asked, “Lord, where are you? Why don’t you make yourself more apparent?” I wish I could say I heard a voice from the sky saying, “Thou shalt do your homework”. What I got however was something less dramatic. It was a simple thought which basically said, “Are you seeking without that which is within?” It is a profound thought which explains the wondrous joy for those others at this time of the year.
The story of man has been a search for God. Over millennia, we have gone from discovering what we thought was God to creating him. Man’s idea of god has ranged from the morning sun to statues of bronze to the modern day concepts of science or ideology. What the statues and science have in common is their limitation in the fixing of the human soul. A god worth its name would inspire faith in men to do more good, give hope to those who had none, and love those who were unworthy.
It is these ideas that Jesus spoke of with jarring conviction. Jesus spoke of a God who couldn’t wait to be reconciled with his creation. The God he presented was and is unlike anything or anyone ever described. He would forgive the repentant regardless of what crimes had been committed and give them a fresh start; He would see beyond the actions of men to their hearts, testing their motives and proving their authenticity; He would chase after the one lost sheep and bring it home. And in keeping with the message he preached, Jesus would turn no one away. He would strengthen weak arms, restore lost lives, and love those who would murder him. His story is tragic, yet joyful; hopeless yet full of hope. If ever there was a God man needed, this was it. And what’s more, Jesus would declare that man no longer needed to seek God. God had found man. And He would come into the accepting heart and be to Him what nothing else on earth ever could — a friend for now and all time.
Ordinarily, the story of a baby born in a manger 2000 years ago should not merit a mention in the family tree, not to speak of the Bible. Yet, this was no ordinary baby. Love was the name of his game and he would play it until his final breath. Love your neighbour as yourself, he would preach. One of his disciples would later write, “God is Love”. As we celebrate the season with friends and family, and consider what we feel towards those dearest and closest to us, let us remember the One who thinks more of us than mere masses of carbon and consider his gift of love to us. The Carpenter’s Son is still worth considering.
Osita Egbubine is a believer in the capacity of every human being to lead a fulfilling, purpose-driven life. He tweets via @ositane.
Also by Osita Egbubine: Beware the “Little” Vices and How a Son Stands