Just imagine if Jesus Christ was born in modern China. The story would go something like this.
A young migrant couple leaves their dirt-poor rural area for a better life. They hook up a horse and cart - the kind still seen trotting around Beijing today - and take to the road.
As the horse clip clops down the side of the road, the couple is filled with hope because their first baby is to be born in a week. The mom-to-be isn't too worried about being on the road. She was born in her family's farmhouse, as was her carpenter husband.
He plans to find work at one of the many busy building sites. A good tradesman like himself can always find work in booming China.
During the long journey, they pull over to buy fresh vegetables from a friendly farmer. The old man is telling the younger fellow about the great job opportunities in the nearby town when a thunderstorm suddenly erupts.
The farmer leads the couple to his nearby storage shed and, as the pouring rain belts down on the old tin roof, the three people keep up their lively conversation.
The barn has a pigpen attached and a bony horse is tied up inside. Suddenly, the expectant mother screams: "The baby is coming!"
The nearest hospital is 50 km away and the farmer's house is at least a 20-minute ride away. The baby is coming now!
The farmer clears a table inside the shed and sends for his wife, who rushes from the farmhouse to help deliver the baby.
The farmer's son, who has become a wealthy businessman, happens to be visiting his home province with three of his rich foreign friends. The city slickers have never visited a farm and are fascinated by the commotion inside the shed.
These three kings of industry drive their flashy all-wheel-drives to see this miracle baby born in a manger. They offer gifts to the couple - red envelopes stuffed with 100 yuan notes.
The kid grows up to become a great philosopher and for the next 2,000 years, his humble beginning becomes the most celebrated birthday party in history.
Just for the record, Christmas Day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the central focus of one of the world's biggest religions. His basic message was to love one another.
I just needed to write that down because about this time of the year in China, I rarely read this important fact. I read a lot about holidays, buying things, drinking, eating, parties and Santa. In fact, many write "Happy Xmas" and have taken Christ out of Christmas entirely.
As for me, I still find the story of Jesus Christ's humble birth marvelous and charged with amazing grace.
Next Tuesday I will join more than 2 billion people - one in three people on the planet - to celebrate a very special birthday. I will ring my Mom, my Dad, my brother and his children and wish them peace and goodwill. I will tell them all I love them. I will send emails to about 50 friends around the world wishing them a happy Christmas.
And while I'm at it, I'd like to wish you a Happy Christmas too.
Peace be with you.
(China Daily 12/21/2007 page20)