Summary: A meditation for Christmas Eve.
“The World has Never Been the Same”
The story of Christmas is not a fairy-tale from long, long ago that takes place in a land far, far away.
Included in the story are identifiable names and places.
The birth of God into our world doesn’t happen outside of human history but through it.
Mary and Joseph are not prominent, elite people from Jerusalem.
Rather they are peasant people from the hill country of Galilee.
Joseph does come from the lineage of David, but it’s easy to forget that David was just a young shepherd boy when God called him to become a great king.
And shepherds were the lowest folks on the wrung of the ladder.
So, Jesus is born in the midst of a particular political moment.
And His parents are forced to do what everyone else is forced to do.
They are given no special privileges.
Caesar Augustus has power over the people of the entire Roman world.
And that power is huge.
Rome had conquered so many lands.
And now it was time to count the people, to work out the tax rates, to remind the citizens who is in charge.
It’s also a reminder to the people of who provides for their well-being and protection.
It’s the empire that controls the military and the infrastructure these people need to live out each day.
Therefore, when the empire comes to take what it needs, you better give it.
And so, little Mary and Joseph are caught in the middle of this census, and obediently follow the command of the empire, leaving their home in Nazareth to travel to Joseph’s hometown in Bethlehem.
The trip couldn’t have been easy, given the fact that Mary was very pregnant.
But they drop all their plans and do as they are told.
Do you think Mary and Joseph wanted to go?
I wonder if they questioned all the information God had communicated to them about the baby Mary was carrying as they slowly made their way to Bethlehem.
“This child is supposed to be someone who will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High?
He’s supposed to reign over a Kingdom that will never end?
Why is God doing this through us, and under such uncomfortable circumstances?”
“Did we get it wrong?”
“Were we hallucinating?”
Mary and Joseph aren’t too different from you or me, are they?
Life is not easy for them.
They sometimes doubt themselves and even God.
They have to follow the laws of the land.
They are caught-up in the events going on around them.
Their schedules must be arranged and re-arranged according to what is happening politically, environmentally—you name it.
And when it is time for Mary to give birth to Jesus, all the hotel rooms are already booked by other folks who got there before they did.
They are the least, the last, the ordinary.
Have you ever felt like this?
And I’ve actually got it really good in comparison with most of the people of the world.
I’ve never been homeless.
I’ve never been forced to sleep in a barn or in my car, for that matter, due to a lack of places to stay.
And both my children--Mary Ellen and Owen--were born in excellent, sterile hospitals.
Delivered carefully by well-educated and well-paid doctors and nurses.
Jesus was born in a barn—in a manger—a dirty feeding trough for animals.
It was a dangerous enterprise.
Whenever you feel low, or last or forgotten, dirty, marginalized or poor—think of Jesus.
He’s been there.
Call out the Jesus.
He can relate.
It’s really easy to get down and angry about this life.
Things are not easy.
We get cut; we bleed.
Our best laid plans are often interrupted.
The government seems, so often, to not be on our side.
We don’t always feel like we are in control of our destiny.
There are things we “have” to do simply because they are the way things are, or they are the laws of the land.
That’s the way it was for Mary and Joseph and Jesus.
And that’s the way it is for us as well.
And that’s a beautiful thing, really, when you think about it.
Because Jesus is “God-With-Us” in every way we could possibly imagine.
God didn’t leave anything or anybody out.
Jesus came into this world for every one of us.
He is a King, but also a peasant.
He is without sin, but He spent all His time with sinners.
He was an innocent man, but died the death of a criminal.
His life wasn’t easy.
He was tempted.
He was hated.
He was poor.
He was betrayed.
He was executed.
But His life and death are what bring us Peace.
The promise of peace made by Rome came by power and violence at any cost.