December 24, 2001
Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

About [the time of John's birth] Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah. David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:
     "Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
     Peace to all man and women on earth who please him."

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself. holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

<The Message >


1. From the New Interpreter's Bible we hear, "The context of Jesus' birth, therefore, has thematic and theological significance. Jesus, the son of David, the bringer of peace was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. The Savior of all people was born under the reign of Caesar Augustus, whose peace paled before that announced by the angels. The Messiah born under Roman oppression, which was so evident in the forced registration, would overthrow the powerful and raise up the oppressed. In yet another respect, therefore, the context of Jesus' birth -- like the annunciations -- serves as commentary on his future role."

If we move beyond literal birth into the realm of birth from above and look at our own lives, what do we see from our present circumstances which will be commentary on our future. If we look toward the world and our families and communities being places of more justice and forgiveness, what will people be able to look back on to see how these elements were latent in late 2001 and flourished later? Is it our financial generosity? Is is our involvement with some protest movement? Is it coming to realize our larger heritage? Is it the practice of a particular spiritual discipline? Is it ....?

May we see today the genesis of tomorrow's healing.

2. Speaking of genesis, the birth story, per se, in Luke is teeny -- the time came, the birth occurred, the baby was wrapped. This is pretty close to "And GOD said, "...."

While spending time connecting Jesus' birth to all of society from the Emperor to the shepherds, Luke has only the barest-of-bone stories about the birth itself.

With both of our children having been born at home I know there is more than this minimalist approach to a birth, any birth. I also know that decades after those experiences, they have become rather routine in my mind (except when reviewing the pictures).

How do we hold together the everyday and the heavenly host? How do we hold together the expected and the unexpected? To birth these sets of twins into our life's experiences is to prepare us for decisions needed to be made.

As we go about our daily tasks may we see the ordinary through the lens of glory and peace. And, having seen, invest our lives in being Shalom, Shalem, Peace.

3. R. Alan Culpepper reflects on this passage and says, "God was born on the road."

Of course, how else could it be. May GOD be born on the road of your life.

Culpepper goes on to say, "By entering human history in this way, God identified with the powerless, the oppressed, the poor, and the homeless. Among them, God could do the divine new work."

This sounds like a call to action. This sounds like an agenda for GOD's people. So, the "divine new work" is now in your hands, and mine. Hooray and Hosanna!

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