The birth of Jesus is a reminder that God works in slow and
stunning ways to bring wholeness to this world and our lives.
As a father and grandfather, I remember the joy of each child and now grandchild entering our family. Holding a newborn reminds you of how fragile a baby is at birth. It is hard to remember. As you look into their little face, you wonder how their story will unfold in and beyond your lifetime. When you hold them in your arms, you are suddenly aware of your hopefulness for all of life. You long for their lives and all lives to unfold with all their potential.
The cries and coos of a baby invite us to think of the future and, even in hard times, fill us with hope. Mothers and fathers are suddenly aware that life is about more than their existence. The deep contractions that bring a life into the world remind us that there are many things in life that are beyond reason. The birth of a baby reminds you that God continues to create in us all the time. Sometimes you even get to hold the fruit of that creating power.
Our culture will focus with great energy in the coming days on Christmas. More people will come to worship on Christmas than will come on the more important holy days we celebrate around the death and resurrection of Jesus. We will celebrate together this miracle of God’s Son being born in Bethlehem.
Yet we remember God’s work of redeeming our lives and our world unfolds over time like a pregnancy takes months. We remember the way God works slowly and steadily turning a baby into an adult who never stops growing in more than physical ways. While we will feast and exchange gifts and then return to our normal lives, God’s work always continues. It is always worth celebrating. God’s work happens in visible ways at the font and table. God works and we hear it as the Word is proclaimed in words and embodied love. God’s work also continues in steady, invisible ways that we will never comprehend.
God’s sudden and ongoing work means we will never return to normal as God’s grace flows over and fills our lives again and again.
It is easy to claim we know how and where God is working, but this Gospel lesson below is a reminder of how God works in mysterious ways that we would rarely anticipate or expect. God also works in slow and steady ways like the birth of a child that will take decades to complete.
God works in human flesh. God works in the midst of our twisted, broken, and beautiful stories and histories. God works to create God’s longed-for future, redeem all of us, and breathe God’s dream into our heart, mind, and actions.
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!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The Good News is our mysterious and gracious God worked in stunning ways in the ordinary birth of Jesus our Savior. Our gracious God continues to work in our lives and our world in ways that we notice. God labors in ways that are so deep and hidden that we may never realize what is happening until God’s healing grace and resurrecting love breaks into our midst and breaks open our hearts.
Don’t be afraid.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.
And that is just the beginning of the Story.