Father, we are filled with the new light by the coming of Your Word among us. May the light of faith shine in our works and actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
It is the old, old story that never grows old: a Savior is born in the humblest and poorest of circumstances. All of heaven joins in the celebration with joyous singing. A common opinion among "enlightened" people in our post-modern world holds that Christmas is only a story, a myth, a legend - something akin to the story of the sugar plum fairy and Santa. Such folk believe that Jesus is no more real than Rudolph the red nosed reign deer.
The reality happens to be that Jesus came to this earth as He broke into time and space. Consider, from the original Christmas story, how real Christmas happens to become reality. The Christmas story is based on concrete, specific details.
1. First consider the political realities. - There were specific political realities. These circumstances happening at the time Christ was born in Bethlehem. Luke puts it this way: "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed".
The Lord Jesus was born at a time in which the Romans controlled the world. Jesus came to this world when a tyrant ruled the world from the safety and security of Rome. Nothing but Caesars' rule and Caesars' reign mattered.
Yet look closer. Jesus the Lord of life is being born into this world. He is the mighty God who spoke the world into existence - yet He comes into this world like all of us. He is born as an infant, a baby; born to take on our nature. The apostle John puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us - full of grace and truth" (John 1)
Jesus was also born at a specific time. Luke tells us: "And this taxing took place when Cyrenius was governor of Syria". Jesus' timing couldn't have been better. He came at a specific point in time - He came into this world when the world was held in sin and darkness. In the midst of this world's sin and darkness Jesus Christ - the Very light of the world - burst forth His divine light to dispel the darkness of sin and death. Isaiah the prophet simply tells us: "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. The people dwelling in a land of deep darkness, upon them the light has shined". When He created this world the Lord spoke and said: "Let there be light". At Christmas He became that light which brightens the souls of men and draws men to Himself.
Transition: There were political realities there are also principle characters - Mary and Joseph.
2. This couple will make the trip up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea unto the city of David called Bethlehem because Joseph was of the house and lineage of King David. Mary and Joseph engaged to be married found themselves in a troubled relationship before the marriage even began! Matthew will tell us that before they came together Mary was found to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph knew only two realities. First, his fiancée' was pregnant. The second reality - he was not the father! That's why we find Joseph in Matthew's gospel contemplating how to put Mary away quietly. He's at a crossroads and appears to be a man in crisis. He has deep emotional feelings for the girl - he cares for her immensely. But at the same time He fells betrayed and broken. Frightened and confused, feeling slighted and betrayed Joseph ponders what he should do. What should he do?
A divine intervention is needed. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit". There you have it! Joseph and Mary will marry - they will become a family and as far as the rest of the world is concerned folk will assume that Joseph is the father of his son Jesus. But you and I know better. We're reminded of this divine intervention every single time we confess the creed together!
3. Then there's the place where Jesus is born. The delivery room is an out building connected to the house where the animals were kept. A barn would be too elaborate a description. It's more like a pen or a lean-to. Jesus is born there for there is no other place for Him to be born. The street is the only other place available.
What does this mean? You can never be too low for Jesus! No matter where you have been and no matter what your circumstances - you can never sink too low for Jesus. His birth is a predictor of His death. His birth among those of humble means will not diminish the fact that He alone is a priceless treasure!
4. Then there are those, whose lives were forever changed due to the circumstances of these events. They all saw it - they witnessed the greatest miracle of Christmas - they welcomed the Lord Jesus into their lives - never again would their lives be miserable again. Sure there would be sad and lonely times but in an instant they were granted audience with the Lord of life. They had witnessed a miracle - God coming to man in the presence of His Son Immanuel - God who is with us.
CONCLUSION: That's what makes Christmas so special - it's not the gifts, the noise the lights - it's the story just as it happened - God coming to man in time and space. We have seen it too and beheld the wonder of it all! A blessed Christmas to one and to all!
“Almighty God, you have made this holy light shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory.”
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use