“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.” (Luke 2: 1 – 4)
Take a moment and ponder that, beloved reader. Descended from the house and family of David. A family of kings and rulers, now ruled over by someone else. And made to journey a relatively great distance at the command of another. We so often think that Joseph was just a “side piece” to the birth of Jesus. But in his veins was the blood of royalty. In his son’s veins was the blood of divinity. It just seems to me that this was the moment in history that so many generations of Jews had waited for. And yet it was hardly a blip. I am so glad it is now reached the importance it deserves!
“He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Verses 5 – 7)
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Verses 8 – 14)
Yesterday I talked about Jesus’ birth being announced with great fanfare. I also talked about endings and beginnings – things that are also sometimes announced with great fanfare. Christmas hymns speak of both the quiet and serenity of the night and the joyous celebration. I like to think about the juxtaposition of those two realities.
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Verses 15 – 18, 20)
There is a Christmas song that talks about seeing, hearing, knowing, and listening (“Do you hear what I hear?”) I am a great fan of most any and all Christmas songs that focus on the “reason for the season”. Another one, “Mary, did you know?” is also close to my heart. Telling about Jesus’ birth is one way of entering into preaching the gospel; that may be why the story of Jesus’ birth starts out the New Testament. I like to tell people things, teach them what they need to know, instruct them in listening to the voice of the Spirit. But I am also like Mary.
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)
Come tomorrow we will return to our “every day” lives. Some people will start packing away the Christmas decorations. I am a person who likes to linger in the moment and keep the decorations out for a week or two yet. I will keep humming Christmas carols. And remembering the glow that the Nativity brings. I am hoping this year, more so than any year before, we keep in our hearts the care and compassion that this season brings. Selah!