Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
Picture it. 1995. Steve Fossett lands his hot air balloon in Leader, Saskatchewan becoming the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a balloon! Canadian butchers in Kitchener, Ontario set the world record for the longest sausage ever, at 46.3km/28.77m. Microsoft released Windows ‘95 in August. O.J. Simpson was found ’not guilty’ of murder in October. And, Joan Osbourne released her now iconic song, “One of Us.” The opening lyrics of that song say: “If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with him in all his glory. What would you ask if you had just one question?” The chorus goes on to ask “What if God was one of us?” This is a deeply theological song! It should be added to our list of Christmas tunes as it has far more theological depth than Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells all put together! What if God was one of us? If God had a face, what would it look like?
Of course, we are gathered in God’s house today precisely because we know the answer to these questions. What if God was one of us – well, He is one of us! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is exactly what Christmas is all about! Heaven and earth come together as God puts on flesh and dwells in our midst. Jesus our Lord and Savior is veiled in flesh and blood. Divinity and humanity are together forever. Like two pieces of construction paper glued together, people and God have become one once more! This unfathomable mystery answers the questions, stills unbelief and fills believing hearts and minds with hope, peace, joy and love!
Caesar Augustus sends out the decree: “Register the whole world!” It’s a colossal undertaking to say the least, probably more complicated than fixing all of Moose Jaw’s potholes in a single season! But you know how government works – the more crazy the idea, the better. But it’s precisely this decree that begins to change human history forever, for God uses earthly rulers to accomplish His will. The census enabled Christ our Lord to be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the ancient prophecy of Micah: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
All of these small, wee little details that St. Luke records for us in his Gospel point to Jesus in one way or another. Even the fact that Jesus is born and is registered in this fallen world enables the faithful to be registered in the book of heaven! Or think of the swaddling cloths. In biblical times they were like big bandages, very similar to what people were wrapped in when they were buried. From the very beginning of our Lord’s humble birth, we know that one of the Messiah’s purposes in coming would be to endure death – for us. Or how ’bout the manger? Sure, there was no crib so Mary places baby Jesus in the manger. We think, oh, that’s so quaint! How cute that poor baby Jesus has no bed. But even that little detail fulfills a prophecy of Isaiah: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3).
This prophecy has revealed a sad reality for many people these days. They don’t get Christmas. They don’t know, they don’t understand. Christmas without the Savior simply isn’t Christmas! It’s like trying to watch the Roughriders play football without drinking a beer. I mean, sure you can do it, but what’s the point?! Christmas without Jesus is void and empty. All you have is red suits and red noses and red twinkling lights without the red flesh and blood of God’s promised Messiah. But what can we do? People have been cutting Christ out of Christmas for years!
All we can do is come to the stable ourselves. We can gather around the manger, see the happiness and joy on Mary’s face, and embrace it for ourselves. Here lies the miracle of Christmas! Here lies the little Savior, born for us, born to set us free from death and sin. His miraculous birth assures us that God has worked the miracle of forgiving our sins. This good news fills our hearts with much joy and peace, so much so that we celebrate Christmas in all it’s fullness. We gather here in God’s house to receive the Savior who comes to us not only at Christmas, but every Lord’s Day in bread and wine. This good news of God with us – Emmanuel – will draw the world like a moth to flame! So the very best thing we can do for others is to celebrate Christmas ourselves and let that wonderful light shine to those around us.
The Shepherds were convinced and off they went, to Bethlehem to see this thing that happened. And after they saw it, the Scriptures say they ran around making it known. This little baby born in Bethlehem, hanging out in the manger was indeed the Christ child! The promised Messiah was here. God in the flesh had come for His people, just as had been promised of old. How amazing to witness the miracle first hand, to behold the Christ and see the very face of God!!! There is no room left for doubt. What if God was one of us? Well, He is! And here He is, laying before these simple shepherds in a lowly manger.
Seeing Jesus, beholding the humble glory of God, produces two reactions: that of the shepherds and that of Mary. The shepherds, over joyed at the miracle, run around telling everyone that the Christ child has been born! “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Mary’s reaction is quieter, more contemplative.
She thinks about these miraculous things and runs them over and over in her mind, comprehending them by faith and not by reason. The living God is cradled in the arms of His mother. God is one of us! He gives His gifts and His people respond. Glory to God in the Highest! Peace to His people on earth! Christ the Lord is born in Bethlehem. Today, He who holds the whole creation in His hands is born of a virgin. He whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling clothes as a mortal man. God, who created the heavens lies in a lowly manger. He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed from His mother’s breast. The bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men. The Son of the virgin and giver of life to all accepts their gifts!
O Come, let us adore Him! Merry Christmas! Amen!