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.
We tell this story of Jesus’ birth because it matters.
More than just a sweet story…
More than a fairy tale – with snow and animals and wise men…
More than a tradition – with carols and Christmas trees and gift giving…
It is more. It is far more.
But if we focus too much on the fairy tale, on the traditions, on the sweetness, we just might miss the real deal. All those things are fine, but only if they are held secondarily to the main thing. And the main thing is Christ – come to live within our hearts.
Now, I don’t know about you, but raised in Christian culture, I have heard about Christ living our hearts for all my life. It is something I know in my mind. And because I know it in my mind – because it has become something I think I understand – I have verged on missing the point entirely myself at times.
For God didn’t come to claim an earthly Kingdom,
God didn’t come to stake out territory and force obedience,
…God didn’t come in all the ways we expected God to come.
With all the scripture about righteousness and judgement and justice, they thought God would come and shake up our human systems – making things just and right, placing power in the hands of the righteous. And we too, have wanted God to enter into our human systems & revolutionize them – wiping away systemic injustice and evil.
After all, we believe God can’t stand evil. God will not stand for evil and all that kills and destroys. So doesn’t mean God will take down those who have power unjustly? Doesn’t it mean that God will lift up those who are oppressed unjustly? Doesn’t it mean that God will make things right in this world?
Well yes, but not in the ways we think.
For instead of running for political power, instead of joining the movement to overthrow Rome’s governance of Israel, instead of forming a coup to overthrow the powers that be, Jesus did all the wrong things.
Jesus didn’t woo the powerful. Jesus didn’t meet with all the right people. Jesus didn’t advance through the ranks of the religious elite.
Rather Jesus met with all the wrong people – the sinners and the broken, the diseased and outcast, the estranged and the powerless. To the frustration of his followers, Jesus wouldn’t catalyze his popularity, to advance his own interests. To the frustration of his followers, Jesus managed to tick off all the people he would need to please in order to advance.
And he didn’t just tick them off, they felt threatened by him, so much so, that they would vow to take him down.
Jesus doesn’t do any of the things we expect. But what Jesus does isn’t surface.
Jesus didn’t come to change the law, or the rules, or the systems.
All those things matter, but Jesus was in the business of the root causes of all our turmoil and distress.
Jesus came to heal hearts.
Jesus came to heal the human heart.
The root of all our fighting and hurt,
The root of our broken relationships and communities,
The root of our sorrow and isolation,
Come from the state of our hearts. For it is from the human heart that all kinds of vile and evil come. So Jesus came fishing for hearts.
Our Prince of Peace knows that the only lasting peace is created from the inside out, one heart at a time.
So Jesus didn’t come as a ruler.
Jesus came as a baby.
If you look around and wonder – “where is this Prince of Peace?” I am glad you are asking the question. Christ is still living and active – working through you and I, but if we’re not allowing God into the innermost sanctums of our hearts, day by day, there’s a good chance we’re not spreading peace but rather our own turmoil.
God has come! Christ is here!
Our responsibility is to welcome God into our hearts, day after day, that indeed the peace that passed understanding will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And God’s peace will spread from heart to heart, through-out the whole earth.
It begins with you and with me.