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Christmas Midnight

December 25, 2020

Luke 2: 1-14

By Rev. John Tran

Why is it important that we are here to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? After all, St. Mark does not include infancy accounts, but starts with John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism. St. John, while declaring that Jesus is the Word of God from the beginning does not go into any detail as to how this Word became flesh. But Matthew and Luke, whom we read today, do have something to say about the actual birth, even if they both come at it from different ways. The first Christians who knew something about Jesus’ ministry and life, were more interested in his public life, his message, and his resurrection which saved us from sin and death. But after a few years, believers and potential converts were interested in the fact that Jesus from the very moment his life began on earth was God the Father’s Son. In the first centuries, some doubted that Jesus was both fully God and fully man; they wanted to make him one or the other. Yet for the true believer, it was always held that he was both God and human from he beginning. This is the truth that this passage from Luke makes clear for us today, just as it has from early times. The message is that truly God is with us.

As we saw last Sunday, Jesus birth did not happen in a wealthy situation to wealthy parents. It happened in a stable to a teenage girl and a man who worked with his hands, a laborer. And yet, as Luke makes clear from the beginning of his gospel, something very special was going on here: God himself entered into our world by being the direct father of a human being by a virgin. Never before had God so directly touched us. This Son of God was also son of Mary, both really God and a human being like ourselves. The whole life of this holy child would be to show us that, through Jesus, we are as truly God’s children as Jesus is. But, today, we are at the beginning of this life. God chose to come among us so quietly and simply that those who were important in his country and religion did not even know about it.

But as for the birth, it went without notice by anyone except for another group of lowly people, the shepherds. It is a wonderful thing that the story of the birth should tell that the first announcement of God among us came to some shepherds. Shepherds were despised by the orthodox, observant good people of the day. The shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not wash their hands at the proper times or keep all the rules regarding food because their flocks required such constant care. They did not own land or sheep and they were hired workers. The good news was first heard by such shepherds which underlines Luke’s stress on Jesus’ saving role, especially to the poor. So we have our final Annunciation which is to the shepherds who certainly have something in common with Mary and Joseph.

From the beginning, we are told that Jesus is God and that he comes from very ordinary people who were his mother and foster father. The first to hear this good news were also so ordinary that religious people would not notice their existence as important. So what does this tell us today? God is with us and came to be one of us through Jesus Christ, so that the angels could say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” God’s favor rests on us. Let us spread the word of that God is among us, that he is one of us. And the most important thing is that we carry him with us as we leave church today to make him known and give him ourselves as his hands, feet, and voice to announce his presence again and again.

I will leave you with a story that brings home the meaning of God Making his home among us and what this act of selflessness calls of each of us to give:

Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. “Is this your car, Mister?” he asked. Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you nothing? Boy, I wish…” He hesitated. Of course, Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. “I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.” Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, “Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?” “Oh yes, I’d love that.” After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. “Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. “There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And someday I’m gonna give you one just like it…then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.” Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: “It is more blessed to give.” This story the older brother, caught on that God with us is not an abstract idea. No, “God with us” calls us to think outside ourselves and beyond our personal concerns like the older brother and eventually, Paul did; it calls us to “be a brother like that.”

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