Scripture Readings: Isaiah 62:6–12 | Psalm 97 | Titus 3:4–7 | Luke 2:1–20
“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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).
Merry Christmas. Today’s the day.
All throughout the season of Advent, and for some of us, even longer, we have been looking forward to today with building anticipation. The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord, and all that His birth means for our lives and for our world.
But I know if we’re being honest, this Christmas has also been really challenging. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, with cases in our region rising rapidly… making it almost impossible to celebrate in the ways we long to. All of us are facing a great deal of uncertainty as we try to do our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and neighbours… having to make major changes to our everyday lives, not to mention our treasured traditions. Though we still have lots to celebrate today, far more than we likely imagine, it’s safe to say this isn’t the kind of Christmas season that we would have planned.
But honestly, Christmas has been that way since the very beginning: a surprising celebration that none of us would have planned.
Take Joseph and Mary: First came the life-changing visits from the Angel Gabriel, telling them that Mary was going to give birth to God’s Messiah, the Christ. But then, just as the baby was about to be born, the Emperor, off in faraway Rome, decides to call for a census and suddenly they have to make the journey to Bethlehem.
I’m sure they would rather have stayed at home in Nazareth surrounded by family and friends. And they would never have planned to stay in a stable on the night that Mary was to give birth to her firstborn child.
And what about the shepherds?
They had no clue about the promised child… they had their hands full enough with the business of daily life… with simply making a modest living, which was getting harder and harder to do.
The shepherds were completely caught off guard by the angels and heavenly choir… but were compelled to drop everything and run to Bethlehem to see this ‘Good News for all people’ the angels spoke of with their own eyes.
But even though Mary and Joseph and the shepherds would never have planned it that way… even though it all seemed like chaos, inconvenience, and surprise, that first Christmas was the work of the wonderful plans of the Living God.
God planned for the promised child to be born in Bethlehem, in King David’s city, to bring hope to His oppressed people, fulfilling His promises and telling them that their Saviour King had come at last.
And God planned for His Son to be born among those who have no place… among those who are refused welcome… among the outsiders, and all those in need. The Prince of Peace was born as one who is poor, who would Himself know rejection and need, that He might lift up the lowly, and redeem all who place their hope in Him.
God planned for the Good News of the birth of the Messiah to be shared first with those whose lives had lost almost all sense of joy. To those ground down by the weight of the world, the LORD gave a glimpse of heavenly beauty, music, and light… lifting their hearts to share in a vision of life beyond anything they could imagine.
And God planned for these humble shepherds to be drawn near to Mary and Joseph. To come together with those who had once been strangers and share in this gift of God’s love for our world… that they might then go and share this Good News with everyone else as well.
Today we can celebrate even in the midst of our struggles, our disappointments, and our fears, because we remember that the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ came about through the wonderful plans of the Living God, who shares His love with our lonely world… who shines His healing light in the midst of the deepest darkness… and announces Good News of great joy especially when we need it most.
Jesus Christ is born! The Living God is with us! May we rejoice and celebrate this wonderful truth today. Amen.