Christmas Is Togetherness

Written by Joel on December 29th, 2011

December 24, 2011
Christmas
Luke 2:1-20

I remember being a kid and looking forward to Christmas eve at grandma’s house (yes, for some reason it was grandMA’s house not the grandparents house). She was just across town, less than a 30 minute drive. But the journey was special and we always looked forward to it. Other grandkids, aunts and uncles, and all of their boyfriends and girlfriends, they all made the trip too. My brother and sister, and my folks probably lived the closest; but the others came too even though it took one particular set of cousins nearly two hours to get to grandmas that night. That was the Christmas rule, a holiday tradition – you just went. There was always a buffet dinner of ham sandwiches and grandma always made vanilla cupcakes with white frosting – half with green dusted sprinkles and half with red dusted sprinkles. We sat on the floor and everyone got a gift from the grandparents.

Just why did this Christmas memory and tradition remain with me many years later? At it’s core the meaning of Christmas was not in the presents, the food, and not even in the cupcakes – it was in the togetherness. That’s why folks travel for the holidays, why we endeavor to clean house for relatives and why folks make special efforts to have a family meal. Christmas is togetherness. For Christian believers, Christmas is when we proclaim that even the God of all the universe, who is beyond all time, the Lord of Lords, the king of kings, the savior, Lord, Messiah; that God…God chose to be with us. Christmas is togetherness, and at Christmas, God chose togetherness even with the likes of us!

A very long time ago, in a town many many miles from here called Bethlehem; there was a man and a woman. Their names were Joseph and Mary. They were traveling to Joseph’s home town because Caesar ordered a census. Mary was pregnant and she was due to give birth this very night. There was no room for them in the inn, and so Mary had to give birth in the stable with the animals. She wrapped him in cloths and laid him down. It was the first Christmas, and the holy family gathered together. It was the first Christmas, and God stepped down to enter the world as a baby.

What that night must have been like for the holy family – all of the fear and expectation that comes with welcoming a new child into the world. Mary knew to expect great things of this child – the angel Gabriel gave her the news before she conceived. She was told that Jesus would be great and would be called the Son of the Most high, that he will sit on the throne of David forever. And yet, when that moment came and God entered the world in that stable – in the presence of an exhausted Mary and a breathless Joseph; it was noticeably silent… The angel Gabriel did not come back to encourage Mary through, he did not offer a reminder of the promise, God did not send Gabriel back to welcome the babe. There were no angels heard on high; no great light. This extraordinary miraculous birth of God made man was well…quite ordinary.

At least in the manger. There are of course angels in our Christmas story. But we find them in the fields nearby. The angels and company of heavenly hosts appear to shepherds in the fields, folks who also had no room at the inn. In fact they are lower than that. The shepherds were not very highly regarded in the culture of Jesus’ day. They had a dirty, low-paying, smelly job. They were general, unskilled laborers. The shepherds had little power, people simply would not have taken note of what they had to say. And yet God sent his angels to announce the good news of his birth, first to the shepherds in the field.

The angels announce to the shepherds “A savior has been born to you; Glory to God in the highest heavens!” This heavenly announcement of a new born king was declared not to kings, nor to princes, nor to authorities, nor to powers, nor to armies, nor to rulers. Not to Caesar, but to ordinary men in the field. That is just God’s way. Jesus began his reconciling work between God and us at the manger. The “us” in “God with us” is you and me in all of our ordinariness. In our lowliness, in our emptiness, in our loneliness, in our despair, and even in our sinfulness. God with us.

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Just how many babies were born that same night? Just how many mothers wrapped their young in cloths that night? Probably many. And yet this one, this one born of Mary was God almighty. What an ordinary sign, of the glorious almighty God with us.

The shepherds returned, praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. And that is the task before us in the Christmas season. This is why we gather together this evening. We have been told the good news of the Christmas story that God so loved the world that he sent his only son, even as a baby in a manger: a lowly, vulnerable, dependent infant. God entered this world in this way because he loves you. The Good-news of Christmas is that we worship and adore a God that is near. Our Lord is not distant and far-off, He is not someone who knows nothing of our pains, our fears, and our trials. He has been here, God is with us.

Christmas is togetherness. Christmas is the meeting of the heavenly and divine with the ordinary and human. Christmas is “God with us.” So be with him. Merry Christmas.


 

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