This week, our world will slow down just a little bit, businesses and government offices will close and people will be given an opportunity to spend time with their families and stop for just a minute and reflect on life and what’s really important.
I understand that, in this day and age, it’s de rigueur to deny ideas such as absolute truth or to espouse that there is only one way to “salvation.” So, I beg in advance for your forgiveness because I’m going to do just that when I say that I hope and pray that, when you consider what is important in coming days that the “reason for the season” — Jesus Christ — is chief among those things.
I understand Christmas has become a heavily secularized holiday and it’s much needed by all of us. By this point of the year, we’re all wearing a bit thin, and the weights we’re carrying are a bit heavier thanks to the natural flow of the seasons which leave us in the dark for much of the time.
But, just like we’re all looking for the light in our days now, the Jewish people, the people of God whose ancestors had been led to freedom by Moses all those years before, were also searching for a light. Back in exile, but this time in their own home, as Roman conquerors wielded power over them, they were waiting and watching for a Messiah, a new King David to lead them to freedom.
In the midst of all this, the biblical book of Luke tells us, the Roman Emperor calls for a census to be taken (for taxation purposes), causing a carpenter from Nazareth to move his young, pregnant fiancee named Mary to Bethlehem, the City of David, where they can be counted.
Ultimately, upon arrival, with no room for them at the inn, Mary gives birth to her son, Jesus, wraps him in cloth and lays him in a manger.
In yet another improbable aspect of this improbable savior’s story, the Bible then tells us that angels go out and announce the birth of this child who would become the Messiah. But they don’t go to kings and the homes of the rich, nor do they go out to the “wise.”
Instead, the angels deliver the message announcing Jesus’ birth to some who are among the “lowest of the low” — shepherds. As the book of Luke tells us:
'In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’” — Luke 2:8-11
“Do not be afraid.” “Good news of great joy.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful right now? After two years of a global pandemic, growing economic uncertainty, just weeks after one of the worst natural disasters our region has ever seen, with the cold and dark of winter continuing to close in on us, don’t those things sound just like the life-giving word we all need to keep forging forward?
And that’s the message I hope that infuses and informs your Christmas season this year: Do not be afraid. Good news of great joy is here. Because of those events, because of that savior born all those years ago and laid in a manger, you and I can access salvation and enter into full relationship with God. No pandemic can stop that. No wars or anything on earth can stop that now.
The truth is the truth, not just for the wise or the rich, but also the low. No, it’s especially the truth for the “low,” for the person who has been thrown away and discarded by the world.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the injured, the weak. And the reason and the payment that is expected? As Jesus Himself tells us in the Bible — Love God, love other people.
The Bible tells us that no one comes to the Father — God — except by the Son. Now, I’m not a theologian and I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know exactly what that means and what all the ramifications are, but what I will say is this — it is evident from this word that access to God is through Christ, whose word and ministry is aimed at those who often believe they are not deserving of it. No one is prevented from accessing this relationship, and Jesus can provide it.
So, as your days slow down this holiday season and as you spend time with family or counting what blessings you do have, I would ask you to consider that perhaps this poor carpenter’s son from Nazareth who was also a king who would defeat death and the grave is the greatest gift this world has ever received and that perhaps accepting it and beginning to live as though it were true would be the best way to commemorate this holiday and future holidays.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.