Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Story

It’s so wonderful to be virtually with y’all this day as we celebrate the birth of our Savior! It’s an event that was truly a miracle of the highest order – a divine affirmation of just how much God loves us and of the extent of that love for the whole of Creation. Today our hearts are filled with joy and wonder as we celebrate and give thanks to God for His incredible gifting of His only beloved Son.

Now, I’m not sure if you all are aware of just how unbelievable the Christmas story is. And my guess is that some of you no longer regard it to be such. Part of the problem is that you’ve heard it so many times. For so many Christmases now, you had been constantly reminded that Christmas is all about that Greatest Gift of Love; that Christmas is about God’s sending of His begotten Son and that it is all about the “Word becoming Flesh and dwelt among us. You’ve heard that preached to you for so many times. Hence, it has become so familiar that for some, it no longer amazes nor does it fill you with wonder and awe.

I feel sorry for those who have lost interest in the Christmas Story mainly because of too much theologizing or exegetical emphasis by those who preach about it. Perhaps, it would do us some good if we were to just listen to the Christmas Story, say, as a child would hear a remarkable story for the first time.

The Christmas Story begins.

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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.

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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" 

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." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:1-20)

Is this not an amazing story?  Of course, it is! The Christmas Story, with the limelight focused on Christ-child laid on that manger in the small town of Bethlehem, two thousand years ago, continues to spawn awe and wonder. Indeed, how wonderful it is to hear of how God’s plan from the earliest of times became a reality. The world had been readied for this child’s coming for a very long time and now, in the fullness of time, that glorious day had finally come.

And the Promised One did come but not as they had thought. This Messiah came not as a conqueror waiting to wield political or military power. No, this king came as a tiny, defenseless child – vulnerable, innocent and dependent for his needs of sustenance and shelter. 

Not only was the idea of a Messiah itself somewhat incredible to believe, but so also was the way in which He came onto the scene. God sent His only begotten Son as the fulfillment of the promise once made. God’s Son, being born of the Virgin Mary, walked amongst us. It tells us something about our God and His ways. It’s a story of how Heaven met Earth. It shows the huge difference between God’s ways and ours, between the ways God sees the world and our ways of seeing it, between the choices we would make if we were in control and the choices of the One who knows what’s best.

God chose to come as a tiny child simply so he could surprise us; and expand the boundaries of our understanding, and see him in a way no one had seen before. This God was not only the mighty, powerful, all-knowing master of all of human history but also a God who was gentle, meek, loving, merciful and kind. This face of God was unlike anything most people could imagine, like the story of that first Christmas itself.

My dear friends in Christ, we are in solidarity with the rest of the Christian Community throughout the world not simply to remember something that happened two thousand years ago. No, today we gather to celebrate and give thanks to God for that which he continues to do in our lives. Jesus may have been born of Mary centuries ago, but so can he be re-born within each of us this day and every day – every time we invite him in and allow him into every corner and circumstance of our lives. 

Our lives become the “pseudo-mangers” upon which the Christ-child is born anew this very day. But it’s not going to happen on our terms. It will be entirely on God’s terms and if that first Christmas tells us anything, Jesus would likely come in a way that will totally surprise us.

So, maybe, just before the celebration is over, we could take a little time to reflect on our lives and God’s role in it.  Each year at this time I try to ask myself a few questions, like, where in my life do I need God to be born anew this Christmas? In what circumstance of my life do I have the most difficulty finding God? In which of my relationships do I seem to have little room for God? And the one I find most inclined to reflect on – what unlikely way is God trying to come to me?

Hopefully, you too will spend some time reflecting on similar questions. When you shall have the answers to your questions, offer your lives as the “manger” for the Christ-child and pray earnestly that God will grant such petition.

That’s the real miracle of Christmas – that our God not only entered into our world two thousand years ago, but that he wants to do that very thing in you and me. God wants to break into and dwell within us and in every circumstance in which we find ourselves. And he desires this for no other reason than that he loves us. God loves us beyond our wildest imaginations, so much so that he came to dwell with us not once a long time ago but right now, in you and me, in this very time and place.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

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