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Love Comes in the Ordinary, Common, Every Day (Christmas Eve)

25 Dec

Luke 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. {2} This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. {3} All went to their own towns to be registered. {4} 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. {5} He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. {6} While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. {7} 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. {8} In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. {9} Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. {10} 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: {11} to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. {12} This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” {13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, {14} “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

This is such an old, familiar story that sometimes it’s hard to hear it with fresh ears. When this story is read, sometimes all I can hear is Linus’ voice in the Charlie Brown Christmas. But something in this story struck me this year that has made everything new.

Have you ever paid any attention to the “sign” that the angel gives the shepherds? The sign that validates the angels’ good news that the Messiah, the Lord, has come?

You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. That’s it.

Now remember this was during Caesar’s registration for taxation purposes. In order to keep track of whose family owned what land, the people of that region had to register in their family’s hometown. All people who were descendants of King David 1000 years ago were among those who had to go to Bethlehem. Likely there were hundreds, if not thousands were travelling there. There was no room in the inn for countless families coming to Bethlehem during that time. Because who would ever go to Bethlehem? So, as was customary, travelers could stay in homes.

It was common for homes to be two stories tall, with the family on the upper floor, and their few animals on the lower floor. It’s likely that Mary and Joseph were staying in the lower floor of one of these homes with the animals. So, of course, there would probably be a cow, a sheep or two, maybe a goat and a donkey, and, of course, a manger—the feed trough for these animals.

How many families travelled to Bethlehem with small children? Hundreds?

How many couldn’t fit into the small inn of a small town and had to sleep with the animals on the first floor of a home? Most of them?

So how many of those small children were sleeping in mangers that night? Lots of them, perhaps?

Yet the angels tell the shepherds that the sign of the Messiah is that they will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

Couldn’t the angel come up with something a little more specific, with a little more pizzazz? Couldn’t they provide some solid evidence rather than something that would have been very common?

Then it occurred to me how exactly right that is. God is present in our lives through the most ordinary of things in the most ordinary of ways. There are signs of God’s presence all around us all the time. The problem isn’t with the sign given to the shepherds. It’s not that God doesn’t provide signs of her presence and love all around us. The problem is that we think we don’t think that’s good enough.

The shepherds went to Bethlehem, found a child in a manger, and began shouting in the streets that the Messiah had, indeed, come! God really was at work! We are not forgotten! God really does love us. God really does love all people! The sign of a baby wrapped up and sleeping in a makeshift crib was enough.

The ways of God’s reign of love aren’t always a dazzling display of lights and drama. Love doesn’t make headlines. Usually God’s presence among us is quiet, subtle, understated. A baby wrapped up and sleeping. A word of comfort. A friend sitting quietly listening. A child’s hug. A stranger showing kindness. A voice of support and encouragement. These are quiet signs of love, present all around us. God’s love has come into the world.

A baby wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger with the animals all around, in the lower level of a small house in the tiny village, is enough. Love has come. The signs are easy to see. This Christmas I hope our eyes can be opened to the reality of God’s love all around us. And may we always see the signs in the ordinary, the common, the everyday.

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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Sermon

 

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