JESUS COMES TO CALL US OUT
“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.” (Luke 4.7)
This verse from Luke’s Gospel brings to mind very special and cherished images: a specially crafted shelter containing Mary, Joseph, sheep, shepherds, and perhaps a star and angel. Of course at the center of the scene is a newborn baby. Perhaps this verse also brings to mind beloved Christmas carols, like Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. And it might remind us of a gaily decorated church with a sparkling Christmas tree and candles all through the sanctuary. The verse might also bring to mind family and friends, near and far, who have come to celebrate the holy day. It is a familiar, comfortable and comforting scene.
Given our current circumstances, these images and memories will at best be virtually portrayed or not seen at all. While this reality might discourage or dampen our enthusiasm for Christmas, we would do well to plunge ourselves into the meaning and significance of the birth of Jesus - the center of all these images and merrymaking.
We might remind ourselves that Jesus was born into a hostile world to an oppressed people. Within two years of his birth, King Herod sent his army/police to slay all male children two years or younger! Jesus’ birth did not immediately improve the lot of the shepherds, members of the poor, underclass. And his birth did not improve international relations between the Magi and King Herod. Soon after Jesus’ birth, the Holy Family took on the plight of the dislocated when they escaped to Egypt in order to avoid the murderous police sent from Jerusalem.
Finally, let us not forget that Mary and Joseph were not wealthy or privileged. At first they didn’t receive a warm welcome in Bethlehem. In fact, there is no mention that the assistance of a midwife or even neighboring women were available to Mary as she labored in childbirth.
But what was that message that the angels sang in the sky to the shepherds and shepherdesses? “Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you goods 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 . . . Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors.” Regardless of our circumstances, we are invited to give God the glory and to celebrate the arrival of our Savior and Lord into our world and into our hearts and homes.
This wonderful announcement is made to those of us who are struggling to keep our children safe from the virus while feeding, clothing, sheltering and providing for their education. The announcement is ringing in the ears of the seniors who live at home, in senior facilities or are lying in the hospital. It is a joyous announcement to first responders and all the service people who spend what seem like endless hours helping and assisting our families and neighbors.
If ever there were a time to sing with loud voices “Hark! The Herald Angels sing. Glory to the newborn king; peace on earth, and mercy mild.” This is an announcement that is also sent out to the impoverished of the world, living in the slums of Argentina, in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and in the pockets of poverty in the USA. This is an announcement that is sent to those suffering from various addictions (rich and poor) and those who are lost searching for meaning in their life.
This year’s celebration of Christmas may not look like the Christmases of the past and may not live up to our expectations and memories; however, the message is still true and genuine: God’s Love came down from heaven on Christmas and continues to come down for all of God’s people, regardless of their current circumstances.
“Come, let us adore Him, come, let us adore Him, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”
+Pastor Paul for the PLUM Pastoral Staff
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773