Sitting around the Christmas tree with children in pjs and hair still quite a mess, little ones eager to open presents, someone is still super sleepy, someone is probably a little cranky…. and in them moments before opening gifts we read the Christmas story…
“Let’s read the Christmas story. Someone open your Bible to Luke 2. Who wants to read?”
The memory of the moment makes me smile. At the time it was never as idyllic or peaceful as I now remember. In fact, it was usually quite the opposite.
Me: “You cannot get out of bed before the clock says 7:30.”
(6:45am the next morning)
Little Girls: *THUMPING NOISES* *LOUD “WHISPERS”*
Girl #1: “shhhhhhhhh”
Girl #2: “Don’t shush me!”
Girl #3: “We HAVE to be QUIET!!! It isn’t 7:30 yet!”
Little Girls: *THUMPING CONTINUES* *MUFFLED ARGUING* *LOUD ARGUING*
ME: [SIGHING] “Merry Christmas. So it begins…”
Maybe Christmas morning started more like that, less than the perfect picture of Christmas peace and joy…. but maybe that’s part of the point.
Despite our beautiful nativity scenes and (sometimes funny) perfectly choreographed nativity plays, the first Christmas was likely a lot less than ideal.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.Luke 2: 1-7
Mary and Joseph, embarked on a journey… when she was very pregnant, in her late third trimester. What was likely arduous at that point, a 70-90 mile journey, even traveling at 2.5 miles per hour for 8 hours per day would have been 4 intense days of travel, very intense and it is more likely that the journey took at least a week. Not at all a perfect picture of a happy couple about to have a baby.
And there, after the chaos of such a journey, the time came for Mary to give birth. Far from home, after a long journey, in the midst of an overcrowded city, Mary labors and delivers Jesus!
The Messiah is born!
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.Luke 2: 8-11
An angel appears to announce the good news to the most unexpected of people, people of no political or religious importance: Shepherds. The birth of the one who would be known as the Good Shepherd was first announced to shepherds.
An amazing pronouncement of greatest joy: Christ the Lord is born!
The angel didn’t just bring news of the birth; the shepherds were told how to identify the Savior. He wasn’t in a palace, he didn’t have an entourage, and there was no fanfare at all. So how would they identify the savior?
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.Luke 2: 12
The wonder of it all, in the most humble of circumstances, was born the one who would change it all!