Christmas Day – Tuesday, December 25, 2018

December 25, 2018  

Luke 2:8-20


I found a great quote as I was planning this service—one I have been pondering… 

The events of Jesus’ life, and his own divine powers, teach those who can learn that he is true God, and his sufferings openly proclaim him true [hu]man. For if he was not flesh, for what reason did Mary bring him forth? And if he was not God, whom then did Gabriel call Lord? If he was not flesh, who then lay in the manger? If he was not God, to whom did the angels coming on earth give glory? If he was not [hu]man, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? If he was not God, whom then did the shepherds adore? If he was not a man, who cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me”? And if he was not God, who then said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”? …If he were not both God and human, then is our salvation a false thing. 


[Ephraem, in Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, trans. and ed. F.L. Toal (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), I, 35-36 as quoted in Sundays and Sermons “The Nativity of Our Lord 2018]

When it is Christmas (as it is today) we tend to emphasize the humanity of Jesus, kind-of forgetting his divinity. We re-member the conditions of his birth, the lowliness of being born in a stable. In particular, the gospel of Luke presents us with images of poverty as Luke tells the story:

  • There was a woman giving birth in a place where animals usually stay.
  • There was a baby who was wrapped in nothing more than strips of cloth.
  • Shepherds were the first to be told (by angels) that “a savior” “the Messiah” (Luke 2:11) had been born. The shepherds “went with haste” (Luke 2:16) to go visit the child. And so his first visitors were religiously unclean, straight-from-the-field fellows. Probably dirty. Probably smelly. As was the stable—probably.

This was the Messiah. The fulfillment of scripture. The satisfaction of centuries of hope. The new ruler of God’s Chosen people. God incarnate. Savior of the World.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those shepherds.
Why them?
Why were they the ones to hear the good news of Christ’s birth?
They were migrant workers. They lived itinerant lives, moving with their sheep from field to field.
Luke is the only one who tells the story this way—who includes the angels singing to the shepherds.

Luke has a clear agenda in his gospel. As one scholar wrote, “God’s reign is spilling over the boundaries set by the powerful people of the world and into the margins” (Sundays and Seasons, The Nativity of Our Lord 2018). The same scholar said “God is found in the hidden, the neglected, the immodest places of the world.”

And this is our God.

Imagine if you were one of those shepherds. Imagine if you stood there, in the darkness of the night. Imagine if “an angel of the Lord” suddenly “stood before” you. Imagine if “the glory of the Lord” shined around you.
Wouldn’t you be, as the shepherds were, terrified?
But then the angel said to you “Don’t be afraid” and the angel told you wonderful things were about to happen! The angel told you “I bring good news of great joy!”
And then—and then—
A “multitude of the heavenly host” (sometimes translated the heavenly “army”) appeared with the angel and sang! Filling the sky they sang “glory to God!”
Glory to God! 

Our God is an awesome God!
Our God—born in a manger.

Imagine going, as the shepherds did, to visit this new baby. Imagine knowing the baby, the little child was Christ the king. The Messiah.

“Our world interrupted—brings us all out of the margins into the center of life” (Sundays and Seasons The Nativity of Our Lord 2018). 

Christ is there. At the center of life. In the world. Changing the world forever.

Christ is here. At the center of our lives. In our hearts. Guiding all that we do. Defining all that we are.

Christ was there. Christ is here.
Christ was born.
Christ lives.
We celebrate his birth and his life and all that he brought to the world, forever and ever.