The Birth of Jesus
1About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. 2These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. 4So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David's hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David's family.
5Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, 6and while they were there, 7she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9 All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10But the angel said, “Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”
13Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
14“Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone
who pleases God.”
15After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.
17When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. 18Everyone listened and was surprised. 19But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.
20As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.
As I sat down to write I was interrupted by a phone call from the pastor at church. Could we take on support for an Iraqi refugee family who had just arrived in Canada? They were split between two homeless shelters, and the mother was expecting a third child within a matter of days.
A displaced family from the Middle East – isolated, uncertain of the next night’s accommodation, and a baby on the way. The story of Christmas.
We struggle desperately against situations that highlight our vulnerability. We surround ourselves with busy work that we claim is important work, and, via technology, reassure ourselves that we are constantly connected with others.
Yet God chooses to reveal himself in the moments of our greatest vulnerability. Mary, after months of social isolation and having travelled far from home, experienced a deep, transformative connection as she held her newborn baby. Her carpenter husband, though he had undoubtedly laboured to build a home worthy of his bride and child, only felt complete as he gazed on this baby sleeping in a feeding trough. The shepherds, constantly wary of the changing elements or the intruder, were faced with their greatest fears before knowing their greatest joy.
To find the paradoxical love that Christ offers, look in the place of your deep vulnerability. Look for this in others, and with the love given to you in your time of need, meet the needs of others.
If you are in a place of depletion, know that God intends to fill you. It may not be in a predictable way, and it is not necessarily the reversal of challenging circumstances, but the Christmas story promises that God, the embodiment of love, will be with you.
Emmanuel, thank you for your presence in the places we feel most alone. Fill us where we are empty, and may we know the great joy of your love for us. Move us to love others in this way. We pray this in the name of the Christ child. Amen.