Posted on Wed, Dec 30, 2015
Luke 2:1-20 - "The Nativity of our Lord"
December 24, 2015
The Nativity of our Lord
Gospel Text: Luke 2:1-20 - “Live in the Present, Live in Joy”
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
The Birth of Jesus
2:1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
What is the reason we go to all this trouble to create such a festive atmosphere? It is hard work to create and design all these amazing Christmas ornaments, lighted structures, beautifully wrapped gifts, and even practice and learn all the music! I saw a guy standing in a rather precarious position on a ladder hanging lights on his today! What is the purpose for all of this for all this work? I pray all of our efforts have not been reduced just so that we can increase economic reports for the government or those who thrive only on the words “economic growth!”
There is a very special beauty and purpose to this season. We may like to think the purpose for the season is to be with family. This is a nice thought, but for some people who are single and or alone, or for those going through a divorce, or those who may have lost a loved one the “being with family at Christmas” motif is not always so joyous or even welcoming. Or, we may frame Christmas time as a time of plenty with Norman Rockwell pictures of families and friends sitting around a huge table decked out with a huge turkey and plates and plates of food… (Remember, someone had to spend tons of time and effort cooking that spread!) But the reality is that most people have to work two jobs just to pay rent and try to meet all the expenses it requires to just feed and house our families here in paradise, this Christmas feast motif is also not something that offers ‘Comfort and Joy.’ And then, there are those who may have had a business setback, or even may have lost their job and are very tense for the future. Where do we find the Christmas spirit when thoughts of failure are the only the thoughts that fill our minds among the din of cheerful background Christmas music and commercials constantly repeating the unreachable message of who we are supposed to be according to the people in the commercials.
This year, in attempt to keep my Christmas Celebration as focused as possible, I’ve found myself trying to avoid the commercials on TV, and especially trying to avoid going to the shopping malls. I know there are some great programs and the wonderful buzz of Christmas at the malls, but for me on a personal level, I found myself very emotionally tired from the reality of life and my heart seemed to constantly found itself running to the characters in the Christmas story in the people I see and minister to or with every day. I saw shepherds in all the workers cleaning, building, cutting grass each and every day. I saw countless Holy Families trying to just make a living, or finding a home when there seem to be very few affordable places to live amongst the canyons of million dollar condominiums.
When I looked around me with all the busy people bustling around caught up in the excitement of Christmas, I tried to remember that Christmas is all about the divine mystery of God, entering the world we all must live within, no matter who we are, whether we live with or without abundance. In the book of Titus, Paul makes it clear that in the birth of Jesus, THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED, for the purpose of BRINGING SALVATION TO ALL! Whether we are rich or poor, struggling or living in comfort, the gift of Grace upon Grace is for all. And how we receive or perceive this gift also does not depend on abundance or lack o abundance but upon our hearts willing to hear this Good News and the heart willing to open to the Good News and live according to this life changing grace. The most joyful people at this time of year, can be rich or poor, living under a tarp or in a mansion, but the magic of the promise of Christmas can touch and bring compassion and joy to human beings in ways we can only called BLESSED!
In the Birth of Jesus, GRACE has been born and made flesh, the WORD has become FLESH, Grace has become HUMAN and is BEING just like you and me; this is the Christmas Story. For the purpose of bringing SALVATION TO ALL, and this becomes the Easter Story.
And instead of picturing a Christmas full of perfect people in the commercials, what I see in the scripture are people who are more like the people we live and amongst and can relate to…
The message of God’s plan first comes to a young girl up north in the city of Nazareth. She is still young, and in those days if you stood her next to the working sheep dog, the dog would have been considered to have more value to the family, unless of course she was married off and was producing male babies… this young girl is the one whom God chooses to be the mother of the Savior of the Cosmos. Then, God works through a humble, yet faithful carpenter named Joseph. The poor man had no idea what he was in for, but just like his fiancé Mary, he essentially says, “what the Lord commands, I will obey.” Neither of them are great people of history known for knowledge or experience, their only attribute for the mission of God is their faithfulness and willingness to say, “Your Will be Done.”
Who else does God choose to bring into God’s Christmas Mission of Life? Other than the holy parents of Joseph and Mary, nobody in the sleepy town of Bethlehem, but shepherds keeping watch of their sheep in the nearby hills would be the ones God would specifically inform of the birth of their Savior. In order to show us how our God of Mercy works, it is not surprising God chooses to let the shepherds know what is going on in the village of Bethlehem through the lowest workers on the social ladder to proclaim the Good News of the Birth of Life. If anything went missing in town, it was sure the Shepherds who would have been blamed because they were always, “passing through” the villages. They were always considered suspicious and probably smelled a bit… but they were the ones the angels were sent to perform Handel’s first version of the Messiah for! What does that say to us about who God is holding out as special. Even Mary’s prayer tells us that it is the poor, lost, lonely and rejected are the ones considered blessed.
Finally, and this doesn't come until later, but I wanted to mention the magi that will appear later, who do they seem to represent? They may be those who simply are searching for the King of Kings, yet share none of the same faith traditions or practices. They are simply outsiders, strangers, aliens and those who seek God and God’s Truth.
Young Mary witnessed all these people coming to her to see, honor and worship her Son. As each of these strangers came into the place where the Holy Family were staying, Mary didn't question them, for each one of them represented another witness to an angel, or a star telling her something that she already knew, that, just as like the angels said to her, “for unto them I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
When she pondered what she had been a part of and witnessed with all of their visitors who came to see Jesus, we know she wondered about the future. She and Joseph named their baby “Jesus.” His name told them WHO Jesus was as the name “Jesus” means, “One who can save ones people (from their sins).” But it did not tell them HOW Jesus would accomplish our salvation… The only thing that was clear was that they lived in a sinful and broken world. All they could wonder was, “One day how will the world welcome their child, the Savior of the world? Will the world rejoice in the Good News that the promise of New Life and Hope has arrived? Will they find joy knowing God has entered this broken and hurting world? Can the world take and accept this great gift of life and all the Joy of God’s presence and the promise of eternal life?
We still ponder these questions. But the Good News for tonight is that: Unto us, a child is given who shall be Christ the Lord. Amen! Along with the multitude of angels, let us rejoice!
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