1About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. 2These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.3Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. 4So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family. 5Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, 6and while they were there, 7she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.” 13Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
14“Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”
Today something entirely different: no Galatians, but a story from the start of the Gospel according to Luke. And also a passage of the scripture that feels like it is more appropriate for a winter’s day than a summer’s day. Today is not but a day. Rather: it is – at least to Muslims – a very special night. They recognise the first ‘descend’ of the Kur’an, as described in Sura 97, Al Kadr.
The similarities with the just read bible passage are striking. Both passages are about a gift from heaven and is about angels and peace. But while Muslims commemorate the descend of the Kur’an during their Lailat al Qadr – night of power-, when it is Christmas eve, Christians celebrate that God’s eternal Word did not become a book, but – much more splendid – a human being!
To Muslims, the 27th night of the month Ramadan is the most holy night of the most holy month. The most valuable night of the Islamic ‘ecclesiastical year’, is “better than a thousand months”. The result of the prayers they send up tonight is –so they are of the opinion – greater than a thousand months, i.e. eighty three years of prayer.
“Peace on earth” is what the shepherds hear in the holy Christmas night wherein a heavenly army broke the silence with the “Glory to God”. For two millennia millions have been blessed by the child that came unto the world, David’s long expected son.
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.