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.
The waiting is over… or so we are told. At last, today is Christmas Eve. In years past, this day may have been full to the brim for you. A culmination of celebration, indulging in life’s many riches. Family. Festivities. Travels. Baking cookies. Gift exchanges. Feasts with all the trimmings. Worship complete with Silent Night and candles raised in the air.
For many of us, this year has turned our lives upside down. While the season of Advent is over, in many ways we are still left waiting. When will it be safe to gather again? When can we sing together and break out our best potluck dishes? When can we carelessly hug our grandparents and grandchildren? When can schools, weddings, and concerts go back to normal? When can we come out from behind our masks and plastic partitions? Will we ever be free from all of these worries and fears?
Thankfully, God is familiar with worlds turned upside down. In a political world ruled by the powers of emperors, God rules through the power of new life. God enters into this world as a baby, born outside of the centers of sanctioned dominance. In a religious world ruled by temple authorities and religious experts, God fulfills the prophecies of Scripture and calls upon a nameless group of shepherds to be the first evangelists of the Messiah. In our common life, where we are too often ruled by our divisions and distrust for one another, God’s angel says, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).
Our worlds may be turned upside down, and even there, God is with us. Whatever weariness is weighing on your hearts today, in God, there is always a reason to rejoice. On this holiest of days, get lost in this story once again. May it fill you with hope and joy. Your savior is born today.
Rejoice in God who begins from the margins,
outside of the expected,
outside of the inn,
ordaining the ordinary to the work of the divine.
Rejoice with Mary and Joseph,
a family on the move, a family of sojourners,
who on this night are beholden by unearthly love,
and whose bodies ache with wonder.
Rejoice with the shepherds,
who out of the fields are summoned,
whose fleeting fears give way to faith
in the glory of the One who has come.
Rejoice with the angels and the heavenly host,
lift up your song of praise,
strain if you must,
for peace is God’s refrain.
Rejoice in Jesus, the Messiah,
the incarnate of God,
God with us and for us,
persistent with grace,
wrapped up, lying in a manger,
the light of the world,
the savior is born today.