In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 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. -Luke 2
The Christmas Story invites us to watch for the surprising presence of God in our lives here and now even as we remember the coming of the Messiah in Bethlehem long ago.
We often look for God in the wrong places. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God works in surprising ways and works in the midst of the most vulnerable of people and places.
While we are more comfortable with a heavenly army of angels when we are thinking of God’s presence and work, the one the angels are praising is Jesus lying vulnerable in a manger. God’s decisive intervention in human history begins with Jesus an infant, born and laid in a feedbox.
Without Jesus walking in the world; healing, forgiving, loving, and disrupting what people believed about God and themselves, Christmas would not be celebrated. It is the beginning of a larger Story. Jesus loved the vulnerable as he grew into his ministry of feeding the hungry, transforming the lives of people who were lost, and sharing the Good News that God loves all and particularly pays attention to the vulnerable, not just the rich and powerful.
That is good news for you and me who are vulnerable and weak in ways we don’t want to acknowledge but know in the “dark nights of our soul.”
We don’t only celebrate Christmas because God’s Son was born. We celebrate Christmas because something also changes in God when Jesus is born. In the birth of Jesus, God not only begins the resurrecting work that will follow the vulnerability of entering human history and relationships. In this birth, God experiences the beauty, depth, fearfulness, and wonder of human life.
The army of angels, the motley shepherds, Jesus’ mother and father, none of them knew the depth of what God was up to as Jesus was born crossing into fragile and vulnerable human flesh. Our stubborn God, who had been working for centuries to reconcile Godself to humanity, decided to take an amazing risk to restore our relationship to God and one another.
We can’t comprehend the depth and breadth of the mystery of Christmas, but we gather like Mary to ponder the mystery of this birth and give thanks for what we can and do know about God and ourselves through this one who is born in vulnerability, like us.