Sunday Readings: Isaiah 9.1-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20
It happened while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem that the days of her pregnancy were completed. She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room in the inn.
There were shepherds in the same area, living in the fields and keeping night watch over their flock. An angel of the Lord came suddenly upon them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid. The angel said, “You have nothing to fear! I bring you good news, a great joy to be shared by the whole people. For this day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord. Let this be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2.6-12).
Mary and Joseph face all the challenges any child presents new parents, but Luke’s story also tells us their baby is extraordinary—the savior, the Messiah, God’s Son. Christmas celebrates the significance of Jesus’ whole life in his birth story, crafting it to communicate to every hearer the same tidings of great joy the shepherds hear. A savior has been born to us. The messiah that Israel has long awaited has come. God’s own Son is with us.
The angels give the shepherds—and us—a sign. The sign is the baby, lying in a manger. A manger is a place of very low status, a place among animals at the margin of human society. Luke wants us hearers of his story to recognize with the shepherds that this child is good news for the poor. Mary treasures the shepherds’ words and ponders them in her heart. Mary models faith as an ongoing process; she holds onto what she cannot yet interpret.
The Son of the Most High is joy to poor shepherds and safe with temporarily homeless parents. As Jesus begins life in a world without room for him, Caesar meanwhile is counting the potential taxpayers in his empire.
What experiences of your children’s birth do you bring to hearing the Christmas gospel? Who are the lowly who most concern you this Christmas? How can you or your Christian community help raise them up?