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In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
- "Glory to God in the highest heaven,
- and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
A young woman was filling out an application to attend a very prestigious business school. After completing the normal name, address, social security number questions she began working her way through the essay questions. “Describe the most difficult situation you have had to overcome.”.. “Describe your method of problem solving.”… All of these came with the directions, “Answer in less than 250 words.”… however there was one question that she couldn’t come up with a good answer. She avoided it until the end, but finally had to tackle it: “Are you a leader?”… Being both honest and conscientious, she eventually wrote one word for her 250 word answer… “Are you a leader?”… "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower." (S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases)
On any given day you can read the news and discover that our world is fascinated with folks who are the famous and infamous. We want to see how world leaders are solving the current mayhem.. and whether or not
will solve its most recent crisis… but not only the important stuff.. we like to know why Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch.. and whether or not Lindsay Lohan will actually serve any jail time… and my goodness we must know why Kim Kardashian got a divorce after only ten weeks… we are fascinated with these things and we keep watching and reading for the latest details. Egypt
Unlike these news makers.. the average man, woman or child – the followers never get so much attention. The fella who put in the fifty hour work week, paid his bills on time, loved his wife, played with the kids and helped with housework never makes the news. The single mom that works two jobs, sees to it that her child gets to school on time and has what they need.. is never going to be a story on CNN. The child that worked hard and finally got that passing grade in math will not be the Time magazine person of the year.
We look at the world around us and we say that these folks up here are the ones that matter.. and these down here – that is, the rest of us – are the followers, the not so significant. We don’t live in big cities, there are no paparazzi trying to take our pictures, and most likely, if we are going to have a seven digit income we are going to have to count the two numbers after the decimal point.
Unfortunately we have a tendency to look at our life with God in the same way. We look at the folks like St. Francis and Mother Teresa.. the Popes and the Bishops.. those rare saintly priest – like me for example – and we think that as far as the things of God are concerned.. those are the ones that really matter… and the rest of us.. we’re not leaders.. we’re the followers.. the not so significant in the eyes of God… If God is going to move.. to reveal himself.. it will be to one of them.. not to one of us.
… there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them… The angel of the Lord did not come to kings, presidents, Lady Gaga or any other celebrities.. The angel did not come to the Roman governor.. the
leaders or any of the movers and shakers to announce the birth of the Lord.. The angel came to sheep herders… sheep herders! Temple
What do we know about this Jesus who these sheep herders went to see? He was born in an obscure village in an obscure country.. the child of a peasant woman... he grew up in another small village.. he worked as a carpenter for most of his life with only three years as an itinerant preacher.. He never wrote a book… or had an office. He never had a family or owned a home… never went to college.. or to a big city – for that matter he never traveled more than two hundred miles from where He was born… Yet the world has never been the same.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God becomes human out of love for humanity. God does not seek the most perfect human being with whom to be united, but takes on human nature as it is.”.. as it is.
During this season of Advent we have been talking about the Incarnation. God becoming flesh. And we have talked about living Incarnational lives.. that is.. continually putting flesh on God in this world. Making Him known through word and actions. But so often we mistakenly think that in order to do this we must be some kind of super Christian.. leading the perfect, sinless life… but that’s not true. God used a young girl. A Carpenter. Shepherds. Fishermen. Tax collectors. Prostitutes… For crying out loud God even used a dead guy - Lazarus. They were followers.. These were ordinary people living ordinary lives and they too changed the world. The baby lying in the manger was not born for ivory towers and silver tea sets. He was born for hearts like theirs. He was born for a heart like yours.
The angel of the Lord said to the shepherds… "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people… for all the people.. to you is born this day in the city of
a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.".. the manger where Christ was born existed 2,000 years ago.. and it exists today… but today that manger is not in some far off land. Today.. that manger is within you.. it is within each and everyone of you… as you are.. as you are. David
Scripture says, One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the
come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is within you.”… the Kingdom of God .. the manger.. the place where God desires to be born is within you… It is within you so that he might be made known to you.. and to the world. Kingdom of God
You may never be a mover and shaker in the world who changes the course of history.. or some fashionista that Joan Rivers is going to critique.. but in the eyes of God.. you are worth so much more… you are worth more than life itself… and He desires to be joined to you.. born within you… There was no room for him at the inn… will you make room for him in your heart?
Let us pray… Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen.