Christmas, cribs and conversion . . !

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OVER one hundred and fifty years old, St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, Manhattan, once the tallest building in New York, still manages to captivate with its sheer magnificence!

I walked in awestruck by its absolutely stunning Gothic interior, elegant and spectacular, then turned my gaze to the brilliantly created nativity scene in a grotto inside: The shepherds were there, sheep too, and so also a life like Joseph and Mary. An angel hung from the sky. But the crib was empty.

Baby Jesus would be placed there only on Christmas Day! Standing there, my mind went back two thousand and twenty one years to the first Christmas, and a real baby, born not in such spectacular a building, nor in such clean a grotto, but in a dirty, filthy manger, in a crib of unruly straw, with cows lowing, sheep bleating all around.

A poor Joseph and his virgin wife, with no means to a hospital, or even a room in an inn, had their son’s birth take place in the lowliest of low places!

And yet, a mighty ruler, King Herod felt so threatened by this unknown, unprincely, common birth, he ordered the execution of all children below the age of two in the hope of killing the same babe in the manger!

A mighty man threatened by a baby! And then the news today that a Confirmation service in India was disrupted by a mob of five hundred from another religious community, because they felt a conversion was taking place. With stones and sticks they broke the school and allegedly beat people inside.

No conversion was taking place, but it is only one of the many scenes happening in the country where mobs march into churches, desecrate altars, burn Bibles, and injure priests and Christians, a community of peace loving people, who without retaliation, take the blows the mobs inflict, gather their burnt Bibles repair their churches and broken homes.

I stand beside that empty manger in the old cathedral, and think of that Baby. Like the mobs of my country, huger, bigger than the poor Christians they thrash, King Herod, powerful, and majestic! Both seemingly afraid of that tiny infant.

Why? With no violence on his agenda, with no call to arms, no army, no anger and hatred, and only armed with a weapon called ‘love’ that Babe called Jesus grew up to be a threat to the King and now a threat to mobs all over our country!

Jesus did not command his followers to fight, but gave them only two to follow, “Thou shalt love thy God, with all thy heart and soul and Thou shalt love thy neighbor like thyself!” With this, His death and resurrection He conquered not just King Herod but the World! Why are the mobs afraid, why was King Herod too, of a weapon called love?

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