He came to his own, but how will he be received? (cf. John 1.11)
The act of creation and the ultimate power of creation show themselves more clearly than anywhere else in the very act when a woman gives birth to a child. Secondly, in the seemingly vast history of human endeavour, there is no instance where the human beings do so little, in order to achieve such an incredible result – as in the procreation of a child. The very process, the intricacies in the remarkable growth during well over 9 months since the moment of conception, the immense power and pain being unleashed during the actual hours of being in labour, all these things taken together point at something, at someone larger than life. Someone else is at the helm.
The circumstantial world into which the child is being born is intimately tied to the very process of becoming human. This could be said about every human child being born, but is founded in the old Christian belief in Christ as the first born in creation. We do not understand the fullness of these things to be sure, but the utterly close link that God has created between God self and the human for ever is asserted in Col 1.16a: “for in (Christ) all things were created”. The bottom line is that when Christ, the new-born child, came, he did not come to a strange place, but to his own. Christians have through the ages made considerable efforts, to the detriment of their own cause, to prove the opposite – that the world is such a strange place, divorced from God. Despite the extreme abuses of this world by evil forces and by people infatuated by what in the end proves to be just evil, the gospel news this Christmas is the opposite: the child comes into that which is his, for better, for worse, which is this world, in its present state.
Equally much, however, we address the child that has just been born: will his own receive him? Is there a future for this child, unless it is embedded in a ready-made ethnic identity kit? Is there a future for this child, unless it is connected to those with power and privilege? Will there be a future for this child unless there is faith on this earth? A faith that may have to be fraught with uncertainties, even doubts, a faith that gives God the benefit of the doubt, nevertheless a faith that eventually has a global reach, and that is truly catholic, in the sense of being there for all, being common, unrestricted.
A literal translation of John 1.11 would be as follows: “he came into his own (property or home), and his own (people) received him not”.