Peace be with you!
Christmas. It’s the one day out of the year where there is peace in the world – or so you hope. Since my brother and I are older, we allow Mom a few extra hours of sleep before we mingle over and start eyeing the beautiful arranged gifts under the Christmas tree. We gather around the kitchen table in our pajamas around ten to eat breakfast before we open presents. Mom usually prepares an egg casserole the night before to bake in the morning. Then, the madness begins. Mom tries to allow one of us to hand out the gifts, but we never do it in the right order and therefore she takes over. Kim, our step-dad, usually throws the first Christmas paper ball at someone. The six dogs sniff out their Christmas gifts and begin tearing at the paper. By end of the opening of gifts, the floor is covered with Christmas paper. The order my mom worked so hard to arrange the night before is out the window as Christmas paper balls fly from four directions. Noisily, six dogs bark with us as we sing Christmas carols. Chaos is more our Christmas style.
Was it really peaceful when Jesus was born as we depict in all our Church manger scenes? Imagine being Mary. I would have sent a servant ahead to reserve a hotel room and to alert the local midwives I was coming, if I could not talk Joseph into staying home. Who cares about Emperor Augustus’ decree that all men have to be registered in their hometowns? Mary could have been thinking, “I am having God’s son, and I am due any day now. I just got home from visiting Elizabeth for three months. I have arranged for one of the best midwives that we could afford to deliver the baby. Do you think I am in any shape to ride on back of a donkey?”
The same government that kills Jesus on the cross has Mary and Joseph travelling from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea to be registered (Luke 2:4) for the census. The Roman government is front and center in Luke’s birth narrative of Jesus’ birth. Luke’s readers recognize the Roman government as a threat to Christianity and the Messiah.
For whatever reason, Mary and Joseph did not send a servant ahead to reserve a hotel room and to alert the local midwives they were coming. No one was prepared to welcome Jesus into the world. When Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, there are no vacant rooms anywhere.
Far from home, Mary and Joseph are homeless as they have travelled to fulfill Emperor Augustus’ decree. Jesus is born homeless in a manger where animals lived, ate, and cleaned and relieved themselves. It is a far stretch from where Mary imagined having God’s son, the Messiah.
However, the manger aligns the Messiah with those who suffer and go without noticed. The manger is warm with fresh hay, and the animals are feasting elsewhere. The manger is far from home for Mary and Joseph, yet it is where they become family. The manger is not the place where a king should be born; yet this is where Jesus enters the world. The harsh reality is what greets Jesus when he is born. Jesus is born into a world where hunger, homelessness, jobless, little opportunity, and [whatever “it” is] you face on a daily basis are the reality.
Yet Jesus’ birth does not go unnoticed. The angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14 NRSV)God notices sweet baby Jesus is born and sends angels to sing praises and to tell the shepherds (Luke 2:13-15). The shepherds, who are ordinary people, are the first individuals to greet Jesus into the world. The people who Jesus will dwell with and will lift up in his final days come to lift him up at his birth.
The chaos my family is accustomed to is not too far off from the reality of Jesus’ birth. Although it may not be the conventional to think of Christmas as chaos, Jesus did not come into the world in a conventional way – born to a virgin in a manger greeted by ordinary people. Our family Christmas chaos lifts up our love for each other and for the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, just as the shepherds lift up Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for having Jesus come to us quietly and meeting us in ordinarily places. Help us to keep Christmas just an ordinary day in the world. Remind us to sing praises to you for you have sent the Messiah into the world to lift us, the ordinary people, up. Thank you for allowing us to welcome Jesus, the Messiah, into the world in our everyday lives. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. What preparations have you made for Jesus’ birth?
2. How are you greeting Jesus into the world this Christmas?
3. If Jesus were born tonight, where would he be born? What would the circumstances be?