Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The sign by which the shepherds will recognize the Saviour is that they will find “the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.” No sign of power accompanies the birth of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, God become man will make Himself known first of all by His poverty, His humility, His weakness. As a small child wrapped in swaddling clothes, He is at the mercy of those who press around Him. He depends on them. He cannot resist anyone. He is unable to exercise His will, nor can He defend Himself. As He appears in His birth, so will He appear in His passion, and that is how He wants me to be.
(A Monk of the Eastern Church, Jesus: A Dialogue with the Savior, p. 93-94)
This year a verse from the Christmas narrative has stood out in my heart and mind. The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid but to know about his wife Mary that
“she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
I don’t know what Joseph made of that statement, for I wonder how many of us think deliverance from sin is the most important thing that God or the Messiah can do for us. Joseph had a lot to worry about – a pregnant wife, the Roman government, poverty, survival, homelessness, being an immigrant, fleeing persecution, paying taxes and escaping death. He was responsible for a young wife and a newborn baby whom God claimed as His own yet had entrusted to Joseph’s care. And Joseph had no army to protect him, no money, no place to lay his head. So, I’m not sure that the forgiveness of sins was the most impressing issue on his mind.
The angel doesn’t promise that God will save Joseph or God’s people from terror or tyrants, from the power of one’s enemies, or from pain, disaster or death. And while the angels in heaven were singing God’s praise at the birth of Jesus, on earth, forces were plotting to kill him. While our Christmas spirit tends to sentimentalize the story, the narrative of the Nativity involves evil plots and life-threatening risks.
And we realize one of the most profound mysteries of the birth of Jesus – God enters the world as a child and puts Himself at the mercy of the world. God entrusts himself to the care of a young girl and an old carpenter, penniless and powerless. God trusts them. God comes into the world with no power, money or influence as a defenseless child and allows the world to show God the mercy we always are asking from God for ourselves. That certainly is the mystery and meaning of the Christmas story. We are given opportunity to do unto God as we would have God do for us.
But, you might protest, yes, “they” rejected Christ and threatened him and wanted to kill him, but when did we have opportunity to show how we would treat Christ?
And the King will answer, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Christ comes to us every year at Christmas in the guise of brother or sister, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger. We are given opportunity to see in each person in our household, or neighborhood, or family, or in the parish the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters and to how our love for them. When you do, Christ will be born again in you, and you will become like God.
I wish you all of the joys of the Christmas season. Thank you for all your prayers and for the work you do to make St. Paul’s the parish community to which God calls us.
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? (Matthew 2:2)