After having heard the Word of God made flesh through the incarnate actions of our children, will you listen for the traditional words that tell our Christmas story: From Luke: “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 favours!’
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.”
This is the Word of God, thanks be to God, Amen.
For four weeks, we have been waiting and preparing for a baby. That doesn’t seem too bad – many of us have known the experience of waiting 9 or 10 months for a baby to join our families. We know about waiting and hoping. We know about wondering and worrying. We know about the way that ideas of how this little one might be occur to you in the middle of the night and send your scurrying. We know how the worries of the world that this little one will be born into cause us to fret. The expecting of a baby, child, niece, nephew, cousin, or friend sets your mind to preparing for their coming.
The people of God had not waited for months, but for millennia for the One who would come and right the world. The One who would transform brokenness into beauty, oppression into openness, and suffering into salvation. We have imagines and pictured across millennium that the answer to all our prayers, God on earth could only be some combination of every superhero we have ever heard of. Military might, incredible crushing strength, wisdom beyond humanity, and powers that exceed our understanding. All of the superheroes ruled into the power structure of the day.
No one pictured a baby.
Even though babies were born every day for all of life, no one pictured a baby. The gift of the world. Though the hope of a teenager girl’s whose primary qualification for bearing God was a willingness to say, “Sure, let’s give it a go!” The hardworking regular folks who were still at work were the first to hear the announcement of the good news. Shepherds received a live announcement from angels, no less, of the birth of a baby who is a Messiah, Savior of the people.
How good of God to meet us where we are as a people. To come unassuming, so we might be able to hear and receive the gift of the incarnate deity swaddled in clothes and lying a manager. It is as if God has come into the world in hand-me-down clothes, wrapped in the neighbor’s old Strawberry Shortcake blanket and bouncing along in an old red radio flier wagon. Would we not go inquire and greet such a one going down our sidewalks? Would we go and see as the neighbors wondered out of their homes looking at the sight that had come?
Shepherds, ordinary like you and like me, may well have already known about babies, especially baby lambs. They responded eagerly at the possibility of God to come to them through a baby. “Hail the incarnate deity. Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.”1 Tonight, as we receive again the gift that God offers us, God’s very own self as a baby, we are reminded that for all that we have written off as impossible, God never moved out of the possible column. For all that had given up on us and what lies before us, God’s way has not ruled out. The impossible becomes I’m possible with God.
On this night, we picture a baby, and we picture God. God who is with us in the ordinary moments of our lives and the extraordinary moments of transformation for the world. No one pictured that a baby would change the world, except God. God continues to do so.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
1Wesley, Charles. Hark the Herald Angels! Verse 2.