The Christmas story tells us
that the Savior of the world was born in nondescript Bethlehem, a hick town which
had only one claim to fame: it had been the hometown of David, Israel’s
greatest king. When Jesus was born there, the tiny town didn’t have much going
for it; it’s little wonder that the only motel was chockfull of people whom the
Emperor’s orders had sent there to be registered.
that isolated and ordinary place, he has been showing up anywhere and
everywhere. In fact, if we’ll will watch
closely and listen carefully, we’ll discover him in our own lives and
circumstances, even if that was the last place we expected to find him.
born to parents who were, like their fellow-Jesus, oppressed. They were
citizens of a country occupied by harsh enemies, and they were temporarily
homeless. They were members of the working class, devout and observant Jews, and
pious in good ways, not in cloyingly sentimental ones.
they were, a cloud of suspicion followed them to Bethlehem. Rumors had it that Mary’s baby was not also
Joseph’s, and both of them had claimed that angels had visited them in the
night to tell them that the unusual circumstances of their baby’s birth had to
do with the extraordinary person he would become. But people who heard the rumors and also heard
Mary and Joseph’s stories about angels and dreams tended to believe the
coming to life among people with little power, the vulnerable, and the needy. He is present as the power of new life with
people whose lives are messy and complicated.
And, of course, in ways we sometimes find it hard to acknowledge, we are
all vulnerable and needy; we all have tangles, troubles, and problems. We may be well-dressed messes and high-class
beggars, but we are beggars, nonetheless: for love, for meaning, and for
hope. Jesus gives us what we most need
and what are most hungry and thirsty for: the bread of his own life, the wine
of his own mercy, and the spirit of his own joy.
to sleepy and scared shepherds in a simple field outside Bethlehem—not in
cultured Rome or sophisticated Athens or wealthy Corinth. The God who sent a
choir to a handful of shepherds on the backside of nowhere wants you to hear
the music of love and the harmonies of grace which sound, if we have hears to
hear, in the everyday and ordinary circumstances of our lives.
and he is, I believe, the most mysterious, most beautiful, and most radiant
reality in the universe. When he is born
in us, we become him. His light suffuses us; we shine because of him, with him,
and for him. He is a gift of God’s light
in the world, and he makes us gifts of light, too.