December 24 & 25, 2002
Nativity of the Lord Christmas Eve & Day - Proper 1

Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

About that time 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 firstborn. 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 men 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. The Spiritual Formation Bible encourages singing with angels. "Everyone is singing - Mary (1:46-55), Zechariah, Simeon (2:28-32), the angels! Sing a song of praise - such as "Angels We Have Heard on High" (especially the chorus) - in the shower, in the woods or in the car. Sing where no one can hear you so that you can sing exuberantly and can embellish your song of praise with worshipful gestures or movement. Experiment with the joy of worshiping God - let inward singing permeate your activities. Another option: Sing the African-American spiritual "Guide My Feet" (based on Luke 1:79).

2. Don't you wonder what we would be able to hear if we weren't afraid?

That question is not just for individuals, but for whole nations who prefer to see themselves as innocent targets of terrorism or fearful of containable dangers from half-way around the world.

3. What do you think the function of holding things "dear and deep" within one's self is? What are you holding "dear and deep"? Does it give you courage to do what needs doing?

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