Summary: This sermon looks at the charecters around the nativity play and how each of them responded to the Good News. It encourages us to self evaluate our responses to Christ
People Around the Crib
This is the Christmas Season and the most familiar scene in any Christian gathering or Christian celebrations is the Nativity Scene.
Those of us who have seen many Christmas seasons will well remember the nativity players very well.
Today, let us take a look at some of the nativity players and see how they approached Christ and Christmas. May be this will help us to evaluate our approach to Christmas and our approach to Christ.
The nativity scene is much described in the first and second chapters of Luke , and also in the first and second chapters of Matthew.
Let us look at some of the characters and their responses to the news about the Christ.
1. Zechariah (Luke 1:5), was no ordinary man. He was a priest. He gets the message about John the Baptist when he is in the temple performing his priestly duties. This is the first time that Angel Gabriel (the much celebrated bearer of the Good News… the much loved character in the nativity plays) appears in a sequence of messages about the Christ. Zachariah’s first reaction was that of fear. This is not new. Many of the “Heroes” have expressed fear at the confrontation with God or His angels . Abraham (Genesis 15:1) Moses (Numbers 21:34, Deuteronomy 3:2), Joshua (Joshua 8:1), Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:57), Daniel (Daniel 10: 12&19) have all gone through that stage first, and many more will do that in the new testament too. However God’s reaction to the fear has been beautifully constant. “Do not be afraid” . After the first reaction of fear the second response is that of doubt. Zachariah had doubts about whether it can be true. Again the old testament heroes have had doubts too. Abraham (Genesis 17:17), Sarah (Genesis 18:12), Moses (Exodus 3:10-15), Gideon (Judges 6:14-23), have all gone through the same situation before. Now, Zechariah was a priest and one would expect that he knew the prophesies, and he knew the miracles very well. Nevertheless, Zechariah asks the angel, “How can I be sure of this?”. Our God of course has a great sense of humor. He gives Zachariah a great proof. He , through Gabriel, strikes Zachariah dumb… till the miracle comes through…
2. Joseph (Matthew 1:18), was again a righteous man. We do not know how exactly he came to know that Mary was pregnant, may be Mary told him, may be Elizabeth told him… in any case he comes to know about Mary’s pregnancy through human words, and naturally is troubled about it. And he sets to do what best is possible under human wisdom, not disgracing Mary publicly, but at the same time not letting her get stoned ( the punishment under Hebrew laws for pregnancy not in wedlock). There were only two options available with Joseph. However God had a third option. God always has many options than we human beings have, isn’t it? And that is where the angel comes in again and advises Joseph what to do. And Joseph accepts the divine plan, and discards his own plan.
3. The Magi (Matthew 2:1): We really do not know where exactly they came from or who they were. There are various scholarly views about them. One of the possibilities is that they might have been eastern astrologers who studied ancient manuscripts from around the world, and any new astronomical events raise their curiosity and they decided to seek the new star out. They could have come to know that the new star is supposed to represent the messiah. They traveled thousands of miles to reach Bethlehem and visit Jesus. They worshipped the King, and gave Him gifts. After this event they quietly disappear from the scene.
4. Herod the Great (Matthew 2:3): Herod came to know about the birth of the Christ through the Magi and was disturbed. He was the Rome appointed “King of Jews” and was insecure at the thought of another King of Jews being born. He was very keen to know where exactly the new King is born. However we know if his real motives of seeking the new born baby.
5. Mary (Luke 1:27) : Everything was moving very satisfactorily for this young lady. She was engaged to a Carpenter, and was soon to be married. Gabriel’s visit to her changed the entire scenario and changed her life forever. When Mary heard that she is the chosen one for the Messiah’s birth, her doubt was not on God’s plan, but on the possibility of her bearing a child without “knowing a man”. However, once Gabriel assures her on God’s plan, she very joyfully surrenders to God’s plan , and offers herself as a “Servant of God”
Let us pause here and take a look at the implications of these responses. Here is a bunch of people who got the Good news from God’s messengers, through angels, or through a dream or through the divine signs. What implications do their actions have?