Reading for Christmas: Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Peace be with you!
Each year the world seems a little darker. Mass shootings seem to be at an all-time high. The country is polarized in how to respond; either people are buying guns and ammo, or they are petitioning
Congress for stricter gun control laws. There is also the growing threat of ISIS, which has supporters around the world—even in the United States. Now, as odd as it sounds, Americans are debating if it is safe to allow refugees into our country. Based on our heritage, all Americans can trace their lineage to a refugee or immigrant coming to the United States to escape a threat of some kind. However, the current threats are worldwide, and there is no longer a safe place to hide.
The world is a dangerous place. In this darkness, Isaiah promises a child will be born who will rescue us from the oppressors in the world with authority and will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:4, 6). God promises to rescue the Israelites from the Assyrian army at a time when they needed a word of hope and grace.
The Israelites are not perfect and fell into the trap of trusting their human counterparts rather thanGod, which led them into their current situation. Yet God promises to save the Israelites from their transgressions as he has in the past and will continue to do in the future. Today we need the same word of hope and the promise of being rescued from the darkness. It is the promise of the light entering the darkness of the world. It is the promise of something better beyond the darkness and the world as we know it. It is the promise of being saved from our transgressions. It is the promise of eternal life in the risen Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
In this darkness, baby Jesus enters the world when the Jews are under the rule of the Roman government, which will ultimately kill Jesus on the cross. The same government has Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea to be registered (Luke 2:4) for the census, which puts Mary and Jesus even more at risk. The Roman government is front and center in Luke’s birth narrative of Jesus’s birth. Luke’s readers recognize the Roman government as a threat to Christianity and the Messiah.
In this darkness, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem in Judea just when Mary is expecting to deliver her child. When they get to Bethlehem, there is no room in the inn, and they are left to stay in a stable (Luke 2:7). Mary is probably beside herself when she gives birth to her son in a barn, without a midwife or a female relative.
Far from home, Mary and Joseph are homeless, seeking refuge as they have travelled to Bethlehem to fulfill Emperor Augustus’s decree. Jesus is born homeless in a barn and laid in a manger; he is born where animals live, eat, and relieve themselves. It must be a far stretch from where Mary imagined having God’s son, the Messiah.
However, in this darkness, the manger aligns the Messiah with those who suffer and go unnoticed. 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’s 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). When sweet baby Jesus is born, God 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.
In this darkness, Jesus enters the world to shine God’s light. God understands our fear and our anguish as we face the threats of the world. He understands the dangers we face as refugees, the homeless, children, individuals with disabilities, and faithful disciples. He understands how the world tries to engulf us in its darkness. Therefore, God promises refuge in the form of a Messiah. He promises to always be present in our lives, even when we are lost and blind. He promises to rescue us from the darkness and the current threats of the world one day. In this darkness, we welcome the Messiah into our lives and into our hearts to be our Savior.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for having Jesus come to us quietly, meeting us in ordinary places. Help us to see how Christmas enters our ordinary lives too. 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.