How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion. Break out together in song.
What is it we see as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem? Why wasn’t Jesus born in the major center of Jewish society, Jerusalem instead of that small obscure town with nothing to offer even its inhabitants. We see Joseph and Mary’s journey to the city of David. We see crowded streets because of the census and shoddy inns turning away a couple seeking a bed. We see them finally finding shelter in a cave used to house animals.
Can you imagine the smells in that place? Why was God born and laid in a feeding trough for those animals? Who was there to acknowledge and to pay homage to the King of Kings? According to the scriptures, even the people gathered in the town for the census were unaware of the Angels, singing and the bright star shining down on the place where Jesus lays.
It is no wonder we fail to grasp the full meaning of the gift of Jesus and we fail to grab hold of the forgiveness offered us by his death and resurrections.
Yet, it would seem that God knew all along we would fail to grasp its meaning for us and for all generations. We are told by God through the Prophet Isaiah “…an ox knows it’s owner and a donkey it’s masters manger, but Israel does not know, and my people do not understand” (Is. 1:3). How can we understand when the things God does for us comes to us in ways that challenge our intellect? We fail to believe because we do not understand and perhaps that is the answer to our questions. We must confess with our lips and believe in our hearts before we can ever begin to understand. That kind of belief is what we see in the words Elizabeth says to Mary, “…blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
How can we make sense of this when our image of God is the all-powerful, omnipotent, eternal God? Did Jesus come to earth in power? No, he came as an infant totally dependent, vulnerable and powerless. Nothing in the coming of Jesus as an infant allows us to see the Creator of the Universe as he is. Instead the God who created the universe by his word cannot utter a word. The God who was and is and always will be is now a finite human destined to die. None of this fits our understanding of God so it is no wonder people remarked as he began his ministry, “…isn’t this the son of Joseph and Mary.”
Let’s take it one step further for the prevailing thought at the time of Jesus birth and now is God is Spirit not flesh. How could the people of his time believe he is the Son of God when they could see the adult Jesus in the flesh? They also believed the human body was evil and therefore how could God dwell within an evil body. Nothing made sense to them and it took great faith for the disciples to believe. The people of Jesus’ day could not understand salvation because salvation to them meant to be free of the evil, sinful human body.
We have a similar problem for we fail to see how we could ever invite God to dwell in our sinful bodies. How can we invite God into our hearts; which is exactly where the Holy Spirit dwells. We find it more comfortable and safer to offer sacrifice than to invite God into this mess within us where selfishness and sin dwells.
The Israelite’s were waiting for a King but when he came, they did not recognize him.
If we are ever going to understand this plan of God to redeem us by sending Jesus to us as a child, if we are ever going understand how we will be freed from evil, conquer death and allow our hearts to be changed we need to get in touch with the person of Jesus.
We need to hear his voice calling us and embrace him as Peter, Andrew, James and John embraced him. We need to have the faith of Mary and admit we do not understand but in spite of our lack of understanding we will embrace what God offers us – freedom from our sins, transformation of our hearts and eternal life.
Let us look beyond the infant Jesus to see our God who desires for us to know him intimately and to become disciples willing to tell the story of Christmas and God’s gift of Jesus to everyone.
Let us do what Bethlehem failed to do that day and acknowledge him as Lord.
Come Lord Jesus Come and be born in our hearts.