Advent: Faith

Ben Franklin was known for many wise sayings. Here's one: "If you wish to guarantee success, choose with great care your grandfather." Only one person in all history had that option. In fact, Jesus had an eternity to plan his entrance. Surprise: he came as an Asian born baby, born in a borrowed cattle shed, and immediately escaped the terrorists as a refugee in Africa.

It just so happens that about half the babies in the world today are born in Asia, and approximately half of the world's refugees are Africans fleeing poverty and violence in the hope of finding food and hospitality also. All the little baby boys in Bethlehem died for Jesus before he could die for them on the cross. If any body understands the plight of crack babies, HIV inflected or fetal alcohol or even babies washing up on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to escape the terror of adults, Jesus would understand. Born in a borrowed barn; later, buried in a borrowed tomb, he died in our place, so we might live forever with complete forgiveness for our sin.

But, suddenly, as if on cue, the child Jesus had two sets of visitors: first the local Jewish shepherds who represented the long line of Shepherds leaders in Israel from Moses to David, to worship the one who was to be the Good Shepherd. Then came the Babylonian worship team; a caravan of people from the Arab world, bringing gifts from the Arab world, gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Arabs represent Abraham's first born Son, Ishmael. Hagar his Mother prayed he would be remembered by God, and named him "Ishmael", God hears. Jesus came to announce God's Kingdom had arrived, and as the millions of Arab Christians in the Middle East remind us, he came to bring a reconciling message, including both Jews and Arabs, and all the rest of us.

Ben Franklin got it right. Jesus personally chose his zip code and DNA, so he could be at the center of history and the center of the world, coming to be a personal gift to you and me this Christmas day and every day.

Ray Bakke

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