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Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 2:1–20

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. (NRSV)

Luke’s story about the first people to celebrate Christmas tells us about shepherds who received a call to rejoice, because their savior—God’s anointed one—was being born. They go to seek out the great hope of victory for their people and encounter the newborn Jesus. They then go back to their fields, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”

Would we celebrate, in their place? They were promised liberation from their suffering: they encounter a poor family, traveling to meet the requirements of an imperial decree. They were seeking a king capable of toppling unjust powers: they meet a helpless baby, lying in the place where livestock root for food. They don’t even have sumptuous meals or extravagant gifts; the shepherds go back to their cold fields. Yet they are filled with hope and joy.

Madeleine L’Engle recounts the story of a student who questioned a rabbi, saying, “Why is it that nobody sees God nowadays?” The rabbi answers, “My child, nowadays nobody can stoop so low.” L’Engle challenges us: “Why are we afraid of stooping so low? Didn’t the second person of the Trinity stoop lower than we can even conceive when he willingly relinquished all power and glory to come to earth as a human baby?”

Can we stoop low, this day? Can we celebrate that God came to share our pain instead of removing it? Can we see the holy baby in the hurt and suffering of the world?

God of miraculous power, on this Christmas Day, make us humble. Help us to turn away from our rich food and fine things, so that we might notice those who suffer and who are in pain this day--the lonely neighbor, the grieving friend, the powerless refugee. Give us the courage and grace we need to stop being afraid of the pain that is in the world, so that we might stoop low, see you in a little child, and worship you for coming to share in our life and to save us. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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