He was born in a small village in a far-flung corner of the Roman Empire. He was the child of a peasant-girl – barely out of her teens and with little to commend her, except an obedient heart. His father, a man with rough edges and rougher hands, had equally little to commend him – except the hint of a wonderful pedigree and a willingness to do right by his kin.
When the time came for him to enter the world, a borrowed cattle stall at the end of a hard journey, was the only place they could find for him. In the middle of the night. In a place unfamiliar. Surrounded by the smell and the sweat of beasts of burden. The object of curiosity for shepherds and locals and travelers alike.
He was only days old when his family became refugees. Forced to flee to a foreign country and dependent upon the kindness of strangers, his first months were spent in a place not his home. Upon returning, his lot would be the obscurity of village life and wielding the simple tools of a carpenter’s mallet and hammer.
When he was thirty years of age, he left his home and became a preacher, walking the dusty roads of Palestine with a message and a vision all his own. For a little while people became curious, believed, listened, watched, and then waited for the inevitable to happen.
He was only thirty-three when public opinion, finally, turned, and highest and mightiest in the land plotted against him for the lowest and basest of motives. Abandoned by his friends, turned over to his enemies, he was forced to endure the mockery of a trial. Silent before his accusers, he offered no word in his own defense, but bowed his head until he was reduced, finally, to an object of scorn and pity.
Forced to carry the instrument of his own execution, he was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he lay dying, his executioners gambled for his only possessions – his clothing. After he was dead, only the pity of a wealthy man secured for him a borrowed grave.
Twenty one centuries have passed since many thought him gone forever. Yet today, the world has never escaped his words, his deeds, or his vision. He never wrote a book. But all the libraries in the world could not contain the books written about him. He was neither a politician, nor a professor, and never attended a college or university. Yet, many looked to him for wisdom, and many called him Rabbi, and Teacher.
He never had a wife or children. Yet for 2000 years the Church that bears his name has proudly called herself his bride, and millions more gladly claim him as their brother and sibling.
He had neither wealth nor prestige. Yet, with only a few loaves and fishes he fed thousands. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from where he was born. But he knew the deepest depths of the human soul, and the highest aspirations of the human spirit. He was not a counselor, yet his words, and his touch, could bring joy and freedom to the most troubled heart.
He was not a warrior. And yet, at the mere mention of his name demons trembled, and the mighty feared to ask him even the slightest question. He did not demand to be worshiped or adored. But without his command to be silent, even the stones beneath his feet could not be kept from singing.
He did none of the things that one associates with greatness. And yet, in his presence sinners found forgiveness. The lame walked. The blind received sight. The deaf heard. The dumb spoke. Lepers were cleansed. The weak given courage. The poor given hope. The broken-hearted given joy. And the self-righteous and the unforgiving received their come-uppance.
Twenty one centuries later, and the world tries still in vain to find a category in which to place him, and a box in which to lock him away. And no wonder. Even today, no philosophy, religion, no theologian, no personality….has touched the lives of human beings on this earth as deeply, as profoundly, as his. His “One Solitary Life.”
This holy season, as we honour the birth of the one who was “so wonderfully, completely human He was divine,” may faith, hope and love unite us to him once more. May our lives be joined to his, and may his life and ours be “solitary” no longer….!
Adapted and expanded from: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE”
Rev. Steve (Haughland), Westminster Church, Chauvin, AB