12/24/1029 The Nativity of our Lord The text is Luke 2: 1-20
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. 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.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Everyone is familiar with the story of the Nativity, the often-told narrative of the birth of Jesus the Christ. Children’s Pageants, including the one presented here just last Sunday, have been chronicling this bible story for generations. And in Luke’s Gospel this evening, the character we first encounter is Caesar Augustus, Roman Emperor, and the most powerful person in the ancient world. Truly, he was King over all he surveyed. Augustus decided that everyone in the empire was to be registered and counted; so that all under Rome’s authority might be taxed. After all, if the empire was to expand and maintain supreme political power everyone was required to participate in its funding.
Undoubtedly, this king, this emperor, this Caesar wielded all the power in the world; power over the lives, (and deaths) of all who suffered under the heel of Roman subjugation. And it was in this period of struggle during the Roman occupation of Israel that the Jewish people were most fervently anticipating the coming of the Messiah. The One who was to be their deliverer, the powerful warrior king to deliver the people out from under the oppression of Roman rule. The Anointed One who would come to save the world. They expected someone of great importance, a leader with stature equal to that of the Emperor himself. Perhaps this Messiah would be someone rising from among the Pharisees or the Jewish temple classes, the Sadducees. One who would carry a shield and wield a righteous sword, a king releasing his people from servitude. What they got was completely different from what they had hoped for and completely unexpected.
What they got was not a valiant warrior king, but a helpless, meek, and insignificant baby; the humble child of a frightened teenage peasant girl and a laborer father.
Not one highborn, a person who would rise above the rest of society, but a peasant child destined to live among God’s hurting, suffering people crying out for a redemption that they didn’t know they needed. Not a warrior king, but a humble Savior to forgive their sins, and redeem their souls.
Consider the apparent absurdity of this occurrence. Humble baby as the Messiah, rather than the imagined warrior king. And to increase the outrageousness factor of this episode the meek child turns out to be none other than God in flesh. Consider this; the Creator of the universe decides to take human form; to become one of his own creation. This rather small group of Israelites anticipated the arrival of a Messiah to release them from the burden of oppression from a political power. But God chose instead to walk in the world to secure the freedom of the souls of all humanity. As powerful as Augustus was, as dominant as any ruler could be, no mortal could do what God chose to do for God’s people. To walk among them as a mortal and make them truly free from all the sin and suffering that are inherent to life on earth.
But this infant child grew to do just that. Jesus Christ, the Anointed One whose birth we celebrate this night, grew to be the Savior of the world. To take upon himself the sin of all creation and to redeem humanity before the Father. To mourn the loss of John the Baptist, to weep at the tomb of Lazarus, to heal the sick, to tend to the poor, to feed thousands with very little, and to eventually hang upon a tree. No earthly king has ever done such things as these. But all these things come later in Jesus’ life. Tonight, we are witnesses to the birth of Christ, God breaking forth into the world.
The world at the time of Jesus’ birth was a dark and sinful one. Humanity suffered under the weight of its own brokenness. Christ’s birth served as the Good News, the ‘euangelion’ in Greek, that heralded God’s determination that the time had come to bring light to the darkness. And tonight, that light is among us; Christ our savior is born.
So, as absurd as the concept sounds, that God would deign to walk among us as a human, experiencing all the suffering and pain that this world is capable of, Jesus’ mission was to bring relief to all he encountered. Even more astounding is the fact that God expects the same from us. The humble baby whose birth we venerate this night has completed his earthly ministry and has returned to sit at the right hand of the Father who first sent him. Christ is no longer incarnate with his people. Now we are called to be his hands and feet; to continue the work he began, and to be a blessing to all we encounter. And while we can never be holy as Christ was, we do have more in common with him than we might imagine. We are not emperors, kings, or Caesars; we too are lowly, human creatures. We are as infants also, in that we are not able to fend for ourselves alone, against the forces that conspire to keep the world in darkness. The things that Jesus fought against still remain. The world is hungry, ill, abandoned, homeless, imprisoned, abused, fearful, and lacking hope. But this ‘euangelion’, this Good News that God has brought into the world in the form of Christ Jesus is needed now, more than ever. The world is in deep need of the light that Jesus brought forth from the darkness. It’s now up to us to ensure that it continually shines on all of our brothers and sisters in need.
Christmas is more than the tree and the presents; it represents all that this humble baby lying in a manger was to come to do for God’s people. To set the world free from its bondage to sin; to secure salvation for all who believe that this tiny baby is, in fact Son of God and Son of Man. The beautifully wrapped presents that will be exchanged this Christmas all pale in comparison to the gift that the Christ child gives to us this night. We receive our true freedom. We have been redeemed and are now children of God and brothers and sister to Christ. He is the light of the world and we are to be his torch-bearers in his absence, until he comes again. Let us go from this place as beacons in the darkness of the world; shining Christ’s light wherever fear, injustice, and need are found. ‘A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’. Let us rejoice, for tonight a Savior has been born!
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, we give you thanks for the birth of your Son, Jesus our Savior. His coming onto the world has brought light to the darkness and freedom to all your children. Help us to continue his work by illuminating those places where his people are hurting. And may the light of the Word made flesh brighten the entire world.
And in Jesus’ name together the people of God say…Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Amen.