An incredible major event that took place out of the spotlight. Is this not the Christmas event ? We call this "transfer of focus".
Bethlehem was all a buzz with the many travelers arriving for registration due to the census. The mere gathering of such a vast number of people in
one place can in itself create a festive atmosphere, and, before you know it, people are making merry for no particular reason. Even in Kunitachi, where I live, as the year draws to an end, about 8 trees, standing in a tall row alongside the University Street, are selected and decorated with thousands of fairy lights. And then as the carols, like Silent Night and Oh Come All Ye Faithful, float into the street, I get an inexplicable uplifting feeling. Perhaps that night in Bethlehem was somewhat similar, I find myself wondering with a leap of imagination. Those people who traveled from afar to Bethlehem for the census, grumbling and groaning all the way, must surely have felt this incredible sensation when they finally saw the lights and entered the bustle of the town.
However, the huge wondrous event occurred, without warning, in the city outskirts, towards which no one was headed, in the corner of a cattle shed out back, where there was barely enough light to discern facial features.
This was because there was no room for them in an inn.
Well, the first to learn about this wondrous event were, as you know, the shepherds, camping outside the city and watching over their flock of sheep all night. In the midst of darkness, as they were looking up at the starry sky, the Glory of God suddenly shone upon them, and the voices of angels lulled "Have no fear."
Unexpectedly, the heavenly spotlight focused upon these shepherds, these nameless folk despised by the general public, treated poorly, as though they were lower than human, these insignificant beings probably not even included in the Roman census. How overwhelmed they must have been! How frightened! It exceeds the imagination.
"Do not be afraid" began the angel`s message and then continued with "For see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people."
The great news to be carried to all people was, from the very first, delivered to the shepherds. "All people" may be interpreted in a narrow sense to indicate all the Israelites. However, to these shepherds, the lowliest of beings in that society, the concept of Nation-State and Nationalist would have had absolutely no meaning. To the Emperor, these words would have aroused the image of the Roman Empire. If it were the Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, they would have thought it was a reference to the Israelites. But for these shepherds, who wandered here and there seeking pasture for their sheep, although they may have been conscious of close friendships, I doubt they had any awareness of the Nation or its People.
Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Colombia, South America, splash my way down a tropical river by motorboat and visit many villages, where the natives are living without streets, cars or even electricity. It made me ask myself, what effect would an encounter with modern civilization, as we know it, have on their understanding and lifestyle? What kind of happiness or even unhappiness is awaiting them? The attempt at planting ideas, such as the well-established concept of the Nation-State or the sense of nationalism built up by history, in these people is fundamentally flawed. These natives live on the opposite end of the scale from those who cannot regard matters without presupposing the existence of Peoples or Nation-States prepared for war.
Those shepherds, who were looking up at the heavens, gazing at the starry sky that night, they too were oblivious to such notions of nation and race. To them, "all people" would have meant "every single person". When the shepherds heard the angel`s message, they received it from their natural, unaffected standpoint, one that we have long since forgotten. Their field of vision went far beyond the imaginings of the Roman imperialists or the Israeli nationalists, and they were able to see humans, the world and history from this broader viewpoint.
As for those wise men from the east (astrologers), they too journeyed from the fringes of the Roman empire. At one point, they were traveling towards Israel`s center, Jerusalem, however, they ended up changing course and were led to Bethlehem by Jesus` star.
The nameless people, the people living in the periphery, these were the
people who were first told the news of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is the day when these lowly, nameless people, these people from the outskirts, take on a main role in history. The people who cared for the sheep, calling them by name, not merely regarding them as a number, were these shepherds. The twentieth century was one distorted by the "big names", forcing people to suffer. However, the twenty-first century is near at hand, and this will be the age of the small, nameless people. Nameless people, I call to you. And I call to you, lowly people. Let us hear the songs of praise delivered by the angel and the throng of heaven, and let us sing these praises together.
"Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors!".