God comes into this world at a place that is totally unbefitting. The stable in Bethlehem is so small that Joseph even has to duck his head to enter. And the world into which Christ is born also seems to be in total disarray. It has lost any modicum of order.
The artist Rudolf Yelin designed the Christmas window also adorning our Christmas card as part of the reconstruction of the Hospital Church in Stuttgart after World War II. The church was almost totally destroyed in war-time bombing raids. It was long unclear whether it would be rebuilt at all. Finally, the choir room was turned into a new church and the bombed-out wall of the nave was kept as a ruin to serve as a monument to war and violence.
Christ was born into this broken world. A world where people keep looking out for rays of light that all of a sudden surround them. The rays of the star over Bethlehem connect the shepherds in the field and the wise men from the East. Longingly they look up to the God who has come into their world. Even one of the sheep has obviously noticed that something very special is happening here.
The birth of the child in the manger changes this world. A new light breaks through the dystopia and confusion, filling the world with its warmth. "Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord,” the angel proclaims to the people, and as he does so, the splendour of God shines all about him (Luke 1:10-11). The presence of God shines a new light on the world. The Bible text for Christmas Eve says that God's saving grace appeared to all people so that we may live "soberly, righteously and in godliness" and "zealous of good works" in this world (Titus 2:11-14).
This description of mission applies so well to the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS). 50 years ago, in September 1972, the EMS was founded in the Hospitalhof in Stuttgart. Today, the EMS includes 23 churches, two guest churches and five mission societies in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Together they unite 25 million believers on three continents. They all live from the light that appeared on Christmas Eve and they work together for a "sober, righteous and godly" world.
One of the ecumenical songs in our hymnbook says: “Many rays break from one light. Our light is Christ. Many rays break from one light and we are one through him." (EG 268) Christmas makes our world a little brighter and a little warmer.
On behalf of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS) I wish you a most blessed Christmas!
Dr Dieter Heidtmann
EMS General Secretary