A Cycle – Nativity of the Lord 22
It is easy for anyone to become reflective and wonder how things might have been different “if only…” In fact, during my formation as I prepared to become an ordained minister of the church, my teacher of scripture told us to pay attention to the small seeming inconsequential things in the scriptures. In our readings for the various masses for Christmas did you ever notice the absence of the travelers to Bethlehem at the manger. Would their presence have made a difference to anyone? his presence among them over the next two years? Or was the appearance of the angels a part of God’s plan so private it was intended to be unseen and unheard by the people in Bethlehem. This is where my teacher would add, “how could we ever know.” There are many “if only” events in life and that is why the focus of our faith should be on Jesus, who is the answer to all events in our lives.
The truth is y be fun to speculate, but what happened that night was unnoticed by everyone but a handful of the lowest members of society. The angels appearing that night motivated those shepherds to leave their flocks so they could encounter the Son of God. It certainly was frightening and yet they responded. We do not know how that encountered impacted them; the scriptures do not tell us. But that silence can be a clue to us as we are invited to pause for a moment in our busy lives and acknowledge what God did for us that day. God promised to send a savior to us as to show us his plan for us and how our broken relationship would be healed by his mercy and forgiveness.
The baby in the manger is God is showing us how we need to take the time to walk away from all our responsibilities and just go to him and discover who he is, why he came and allow him to touch our hearts. It is easier for us to approach the child God rather than the God who holds the universe in his hands.
Jesus, the Son of God did not come in glory, but he came in almost obscurity to strip away any incorrect images of how we are unworthy of his mercy and love. None of us can resist the instinct to strip away all that would prevent an infant from responding to us. With an infant we stand in awe; with hearts yearning to hold them and speak unintelligible words to them. They melt our inhibitions as we speak tenderly to them. We easily forget this baby in the manger was the author of creation, the omnipotent God who would raise the dead, bring sight to the blind and offer us new life if only we believe in him.
With two thousand years of developed tradition and doctrine we acknowledge him as the Christ, but we need to do more than that. He came to be more than our savior; he came to bring us into God’s Kingdom here on earth. Where we not only hear the angelic choir giving praise to God but daily join in the song. Jesus will show us how the Father’s heart longs for us to respond to his invitation to know we are pleasing to him, and we can never commit any sin that would make him love us less and we can never do anything to make Him love us more.
Paul in his letter to Titus, reveals to us how we are changed by the experience of encountering Jesus. Paul knows an encounter with Christ is a transforming encounter. That fact alone should make us believe the shepherds went away changed by the experience and that change lasted their entire lives. It is an encounter that changed everyone Jesus ever encountered except those who could not believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. After all he, violate the law by healing on the sabbath, by allowing the disciples to eat without the ritual purification. He dined with sinners and touched lepers. He challenged their strict adherence to the law to make them acceptable to God. He was approachable and the Pharisees believed only a select few had that access to God.
Jesus invites us to an encounter with God that opens our hearts to a deeper encounter, to surrender to the transforming power of the Spirit and to become new creations in Christ.
This day of Jesus’ birth as we acknowledge who he was, why he came and that to worship before him is only the beginning of what we must do. We need to allow Jesus to show us the Father’s love for us and his desire to embrace us and have us jump into his lap and call him Abba. We need to open ourselves to the Spirits transforming power to change our hearts, so we yearn for God and allow God to show us what forgiveness looks and feels like. We need to follow Jesus to the cross to understand the love of God for us and like the Centurion declare “this is truly the Son of God.
This day we celebrate the fulfillment of the prophecies given to us by God to restore what we lost through the sin of Adam and Eve.
This day as we stand before our God we like everyone who encountered him understand what Paul was saying when he wrote: “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Ti.3: 4-7
There is more to come, the celebration has just begun, do we dare to surrender and let the Spirit writing the law on our hearts as promised by God or do we rely on the law while denying the One who came to fulfill the law. Come Lord Jesus come and be born in our hearts.