Rev. Katherine Todd
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. 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.
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!”
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. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
So much surrounding Jesus’ birth is extra-ordinary.
A virgin birth.
An unwed mother still engaged, though her child is not his own.
A girl, the chosen one, from the no-good, backwater town of Nazareth.
Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, pregnant with John, after a lifetime of barrenness.
Elizabeth’s husband Zephaniah made mute until his firstborn and only child John is born.
Angel visitations – to Mary, to Zephaniah, and to Joseph in a dream.
The first-ever world census, it says.
A star directly over the barn, where Jesus is born.
The wise men who study the stars and travel from other kingdoms to pay homage to Jesus.
The glorious host of angels alerting the shepherds to the Christ-child.
A holy child wrapped in mere bands of cloth – not a blanket – and lying in a feed trough.
Here the long-awaited Messiah is born and who comes but the foreigners,
The social outsiders – shepherds who spent more time with animals than with other people.
It says Mary pondered all these things in her heart.
And as she should! Because WHO could have foreseen this bizarre series of events?
Who would have guessed those whom God would call to witness this great act of God – the outsiders, the unclean, the foreigners…ALL people God’s chosen were taught to keep their distance from.
But WHO is ready?
Is it the people of Israel?
Certainly it is not the people of Bethlehem who have relegated this very expectant mother to the animal barn.
No. Foreigners are among the first to see.
And among their own people, it is not all the well-dressed,
The put together,
The well-connected, no.
Shepherds. The smelly shepherds. Those whose work keeps them on the fringes. Those who are not clean or presentable.
These are among the first to hear and see.
And WHY did they see?
Could it be because they were open and available?
Could it be because their socially isolating work required that they be open and ready, listening and waiting, on guard for the sheep – alert to any change or danger? Could it be because they were among the few lying on their backs under the open stars?
For those who are paying attention, there is so much to witness, so much to see and hear, extraordinary happenings!
There is so much to ponder in one’s heart.
But those who witness,
Who hear and see,
They are the expectant.
The expectant are witness to this extraordinary in-breaking of Mystery into our world, the Son of God, born a tiny babe to a virgin, wrapped in scraps of cloth, and lying in a feed trough.
Those who hear and see are the expectant, the alert, the watching and listening and waiting ones.
How vigilant are you to protect and preserve moments of waiting,
Moments of listening,
Moments of openness and expectancy,
In your day by seemingly-ordinary-day life?
This tiny babe, is still breaking into our lives, in extra-ordinary ways.
The watching ones. The waiting ones. The seeking ones.
The expectant ones SEE. Halleluia!
Our Lord is here.
Do we see?