Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Merry Christmas! All around the world, people are celebrating Christmas tonight. Christmas has become one of the most important Christian celebrations each year, which is funny when you think about it, because the first Christmas wasn’t a big deal at all – just a family on the road, arriving in Joseph’s home town, having trouble finding accommodations due to the census, finally finding a warm room with the animals and probably someone to help, and a new baby to love.
Yes, there were angels and shepherds. But why? Why tell the story at all? In fact, in Mark’s and John’s Gospels, there is no nativity story. We meet Jesus as an adult. No manger, no wise men, just an itinerant preacher wandering the backroads of Israel, talking about the Kingdom of God and peace on Earth. Frankly, right now, peace on Earth sounds just as impossible as God being born a little baby in Israel 2,000 years ago.
So why does Luke tell the story this way? And why would God want to enter life on Earth - especially in this way? What is God trying to tell us? Well, I don’t know about you, but my life, in the larger scheme of things, isn’t much of a big deal either, not on a global scale anyway. And most of our lives are pretty ordinary, aren’t they?
Notice I didn’t say “easy.” Our lives can be anything but easy. Trouble abounds: illness, hunger, unfair treatment, unemployment, poverty, war. I could go on. Maybe that’s why we have this simple story of the birth of the Savior. Maybe Luke is trying to tell us something. Jesus was born and lived and died in a small, occupied country. Not in a palace – even though he was the Messiah, the Redeemer, King of Kings. He is definitely not what the world would expect from a king.
I think Luke tells Jesus’s story this way: God came to us in this way to show us just how radical God’s love is, and to let us know that we are loved, even in the middle of our ordinary troubled lives. David Lose, pastor and author, puts it this way: “God comes not at the center of the world to straighten things out a bit, but on the fringe, to call the orders and structures of the day into question and herald a new beginning altogether. Ultimately, Luke's story – if we're willing to listen – witnesses to the simple, yet scary, fact that God didn't come in Jesus to make things a little better, a little more bearable. God came to turn over the tables, to create a whole new system, to resurrect and redeem us rather than merely rehabilitate us. And so, God comes at the edges of the story and our lives to speak quietly, but firmly, through the blood, sweat, and tears of the labor pains of a young mother and cry of her infant that God is irreconcilably for us, joined to our ups and down, our hopes and fears, and committed to giving us not just more of the same, but something more.”
Christ comes as a small baby, in a small country at the edge of the world and, yet, he comes to change everything. The Incarnation, the coming of God as a helpless baby is God’s love song to us. It makes clear that God is completely on our side, willing to experience life as we do, and live a life that is an expression of God’s love – proof that God will not give up on us until all of us, every last person on the planet, knows the embrace of God’s love and can hear the angels say, “Unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Amen.