Lights… trees… gifts… food… family… Jesus.
Dare I say that all of these may just be pointless?
I’m fairly certain you’ve heard every Christmas spiel and sermon that can be imagined. I’m sure there are a few angles on each of the above that you appreciate dwelling on or celebrating.
All trite and lovely, right? In the rush of our daily lives, we might quickly think about Christmas, family and Jesus’ birth in short terms. Yet we may forget that Jesus was born a real person, in a very real world.
In fact, if we forget how Jesus was born, and what happened, we may find the Christmas story, and the season pointless. I remember a sermon I heard from a professor of mine some years ago. His sermon, just began with a question.
Have you ever really thought about the Christmas story itself? We already know tons about Jesus. We already know the wise men, we have already heard about Herod, and you’re familiar with the Romans who ruled over the Hebrews.
Clearly this is a big deal, it includes an empire, a governor, the son of God, and some smart boys from afar. We know about the baby at an inn, and some angels who showed up with big news.
Let’s take some time to ask an important question; have you ever wondered why God never sent angels to the important guys like Herod, the wise-men, or Augustus Caesar himself?
Why did God see these people fit to be the first to receive this big news?
When we look closer at the story we see a common thread between these three groups of people.
Mary and Joseph: looking closer, they were just two people from a small town. Joseph was a craftsman, and Mary his bride-to-be. After Jesus birth Mary and Joseph sacrifice two doves when they dedicate Jesus at the Temple (if you remember from Leviticus, an offering of doves was reserved for the poor who couldn’t afford a bull or goat). However this poor couple would become witnesses of this great news from the angels. Furthermore Mary and Joseph would have a great blessing in bearing the son of God despite the dishonorable circumstance.
Zechariah and Elizabeth: surely this is a couple of great influence! Zechariah is a priest, which was a high honor, but we also learn that they are child-less. In those days barren couples not only bore the sorrow of being childless, they were held in social disgrace. In the eyes of many, the barren were considered cursed by God. Yet in the nativity, God sends an angel to them bringing them news that they will give birth to a son, and their disgrace shall be wiped away.
The Shepherds: Where the first two recipients of the Good News are participants in God’s action, the shepherds are the first true witnesses. The shepherds are given the opportunity to watch on at the unfolding of Grace. However it is quite odd in the sense that shepherds were people who had very little social contact, and even less status in society. Shepherds were often craft-less workers, and people shamed by society would take the only job available: shepherd. The job was hard and lonely, as these men would live their lives as outcasts unto society.
Why then would God bring this big news to these three groups of misfit people? In a moving way, the answer is fairly simple, these are the people who the story of Christmas was meant for.
The message of Christmas is hope for those who have no hope in their financial situation.
The message of Christmas is a promise to the barren that God can answer prayers and furthermore wipe away their shame and disgrace.
The message of Christmas is a beckoning to those who are alone and afar to come in even if the inn is full: there is much room in a small stable for all to come and see hope’s new face.
Though Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were for all humanity, God couldn’t wait to bring the first tidings of the Gospel to the poor, the barren, and the outcast.
I love this season, I love the short disconnected sayings like “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Yet as I said before, all of these are pointless if we forget those for whom God’s heart ached on a Near-Eastern night so long ago. This year and ever after remember this, that God’s salvation came for all, but the news came first for the poor, the barren, and the outcast.
This year I encourage you to ask yourself “How can I be like God and bring this message to the poor, barren, and outcast?” How can I share the heart of God to these peoples?
Perhaps help at a soup kitchen, donate to charity, invite someone lonely you know to spend Christmas with family. Please don’t forget the heart of our Father and lets reach out to his people this season.
May the love of our Savior be with you this advent season,