Luke 2:1-14 Isaiah 52:7-10
The Christmas candle on the Advent wreath is lit with the following prayer:
God our Father, today the Saviour is born, and those who live in darkness are seeing a great light. Help us, who greet the birth of Christ with joy, to live in the light of your Son, and to share the good news of your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ, the light who has come into the world. Amen.
‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion: Your God reigns.’ This verse from Isaiah 52 declares the approach of a king. His coming is announced by lookouts on mountains along the route and passed on from one sentinel to another with jubilation. They are shouting: ‘Look! There he is!’ No longer are people left in doubt, struggling in the darkness. That which had been proclaimed and prophesied ages before has now taken place, and today is the day.
How beautiful indeed is the good news that we are celebrating today: the birth of our Saviour.
I don’t know how you are celebrating Christmas this year; whether the pandemic restrictions are limiting your usual gathering traditions; I’d guess that they probably do. But there’s one thing we would do well to mark: that God is with us. For much of this past year we haven’t been able to do what we normally do, or to be with those we would normally share time and space with. But God is with us. That means that we are not alone: he is sharing in our time and in our space, because that’s what he has planned and been carrying out for a very long time already. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Light of Life, is called Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’. The story in Luke’s Gospel of the birth of Jesus is not exactly what we remember about it. Many renditions of the nativity include things that are not literally in the biblical account: the donkey, the ox and ass in the stable, the innkeeper: they are not mentioned. But that doesn’t matter. If we’ve ‘dressed it up’ a little, we’ve simply tried to fill in the blanks in order to complete the picture. And they could actually have been there! What is in the original story, though, and also in every Christmas scene is the manger: the feeding-trough, that Mary used as a crib for her new-born son. Luke mentions it three times, even. It’s a nice human touch to the story that makes it even more truthful. But that’s not all. It is also highly important as a signpost for the shepherds. The angel’s message includes the description of the manger as an exact place of reference for the shepherds to identify Jesus. The manger is essential in the story, because it says: ‘Look! There he is!’ Jesus has entered into the story of humanity in a specific place, at a specific time, for a specific reason: to be the King of Glory, who is God with us.
We may not understand much of our own story at this time; we are looking out for better days, we say. But unless those days include the very special presence of God, how does our story work?
The story of God, that has come to us in a living form, in the shape of a baby boy, born to save us, is looking to include us in God’s purpose of love and peace. In Jesus, God is saying to us: ‘Enter into my story, and I will show you what it means.’ So, whenever we see the manger, and think of Christ, let us remember what it’s telling us: that we are invited to see God in the light of life that Jesus is giving us. God with us. There is no better Christmas gift than that. Let us pray:
One with us, yet born to save, he will show us the way to God.
Lord, bring us today into Christ’s love. Amen. Happy Christmas!