C Cycle – Christmas 21
God’s plan to restore the relationship lost by the sin of Adam was to send Jesus to earth to remove the barrier of sin between us and God. The Word made flesh through whom all things were made came to us not as a warrior but as a newborn infant. A baby dependent on his parents for survival came to earth in obscurity. That night of his birth, he was wrapped in swaddling and placed in a manger. Swaddling was tightly wrapped around an infant restricting movement. On Jesus it is reminiscent of the burial bonds which were wrapped around him as he was laid in the tomb. The manger, a feeding trough for animals made of wood is reminiscent of the wood of the cross on which he hung.
All the prophesies point to this event and still no one in all of Israel is aware of it but a few shepherds. With all the wisdom of the Pharisees, Chief Priest and scribes how could they not recognize the signs. How could they ignore the three foreigners who saw the signs they missed? How could they or the people in Bethlehem nor noticed the bright star and question its appearance? How could the people who flocked to Bethlehem not heard the angels singing or the shepherds leaving the flock to stand before the promised Messiah?
Those in Bethlehem were doing what all travelers do, eating, drinking, complaining about the accommodations, the tyranny of the Roman edits and putting their children to bed. Life seems to occupy them that night as it does us, keeping us from paying attention to the presence of God.
God’s plan to do something within us to overcome our impulse to sin began with Jesus and it was a quiet, unnoticed beginning. This is where we find ourselves today. We are unaware God is inviting us to allow him to change our hearts. We unlike them have two thousand years of teaching to form our understanding of the birth of Jesus. But that is just the foundation of what is yet to come. There must come a day when the reality of Jesus grabs us and creates in us a desire to respond. God in the prophet Isaiah told us about this night when he said, “…an ox knows its owner and an ass its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isa. 1:3). We do not understand how critical the birth of Jesus was for us. It was the bridge connecting us to be embraced by the father as was the prodigal son. The promise of us becoming sons and daughters.
It is easy to grasp how we fail to understand as we look at the infant Jesus. We know God is omnipotent, eternal, and invulnerable. God made man on that day was vulnerable, mortal and without power to even speak, eat or move. Was any of what happened on this day in keeping with our understanding of God? Can God be dependent on someone else for food, the change his diapers, incapable of speech? Can God come to earth and then for the next 30 years subjected to the rules set by his parents and society? None of how God’s plan of salvation makes any sense to any of us then and yes even now.
Yet it seems that the one thing God delights in the most is to surprise us and to challenge who we believe God to be or how we should respond to God. The birth of Christ is part of a plan by God that unfolded over two thousand years prior to his birth. God revealed all of this in the prophets and tells us repeatedly about his desire to be our God and for us to be his people. He told us in repeatably how sin would be forgiven by the shedding of blood and how he would change our hearts by the outpouring of the Spirit.
We hear those promises and yet we continue to be unaware of them having been fulfilled already. We are unaware of our need to do what the shepherds did and stand before him in awe and wonder. We are unaware of our need to acknowledge his as Lord and Savior and invite him to be born in our hearts.
Jesus is always inviting us to embrace him, just as it is in our human nature to embrace an infant. God has implanted in us a desire to feel forgiven, to feel the love of God poured out upon us and to know nothing can separate us from the love of God. God has implanted in us a deep longing to feel whole and to feel we have a meaning and a purpose for living.
All we believe and know about Christmas in one way is a distraction from allowing us to embrace this baby of Mary as our Savior and Lord and have those longings satisfied. To understand instead of living with uncertainty.
Merry Christmas to all who follow my homiletic blog to those who have sent me notes and comments I thank you for your encouraging words. For those of you who may only come once and a while I pray for Christ to become the one you seek and move you to desire a deeper relationship with Christ.