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The Christmas card shows the silhouette of Mary and Joseph alone looking towards Bethlehem in the distance.  So often Christmas is portrayed as if Mary and Joseph were the only people on the road and Jesus the only baby born in the town.  How different it must have been in reality; a mass migration triggered by the enforced census.  Roads packed with trekking humanity and the town bulging at the seams. More than a few families would have been sheltering in any available stables and by all probability other babies were born that night, and perhaps some kept warm in other mangers.

The events that we now celebrate, passed by at the time remarkably unnoticed.  A handful of shepherds gossip their part in the story but in the main Bethlehem goes untroubled by these events.  It is not in the way of God to seek centre stage.  Jesus resists the temptation to throw himself off the temple to be caught by angels and draw attention to his ministry.  More often he is exhorting those he meets to tell no one of what he has done.

The ways of God are stiller, quieter and less obtrusive than we humans might think necessary. We may long for churches to be full to capacity and all the world to stop and acknowledge the true meaning of this season, but God does not need that.  Back then a gaggle of smelly sheep herders and a bunch of curious scholars was enough.  In his ministry a group of twelve diverse and diffident followers was enough.  This Christmas those who do come and kneel before the crib are enough.

The Church needs to understand it is not size that matters but effectiveness.  It is by being yeast and salt we bring about change not by becoming the main ingredient.  We do not need to be centre stage to make a difference.  God has always known that.

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