The Gift

Dec 16, 2015   //   by Janet Blair   //   Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

When the angel Gabriel comes to deliver good news to the young woman who will be the mother of Jesus, Mary in her faith believes the angel and accepts what God has planned for her. She says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

In this story, good news comes to peasants; it doesn’t come to the powerful. Mary’s words in the Magnificat, great and beautiful words from a humble, modest girl, tell the story: “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”

God is full of surprises.

Angels appear in the sky to terrified shepherds and said the message was “for them,” the shepherds! For them! They said, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” To you this Savior is born. To you! To a bunch of smelly, dirty shepherds.

God is full of surprises.

And they will know him by this – by a sign that is for them. ”This will be a sign for you,” the angels say to the shepherds. “You will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” It wasn’t for the royalty; it wasn’t for the emperor; it wasn’t for the rich; it was “for you”!

So what does that “for you” mean for us? I think it means two things. First, it means that this incarnation, this clothing of God in human flesh, this Emmanuel, this God-with-us, isn’t just for important people. It’s for us. It’s for me. It’s for you.

And second, it means that this story has a calling for us – that calling is to remember those whom God remembers – the poor, the outcast, those who are at the bottom of the heap of society – just as those shepherds were.

Through those insignificant, ordinary people, God worked something new. God came to them in the ordinariness of what they were doing and did an amazing, surprising thing.

Our God is the God of the ordinary person – even of the person who is so ordinary that it seems that he or she is a no-person, a nobody. In fact, God’s Son was one of those ordinary people. God’s Son lived an ordinary life, and before people caught on that he was special, he was just Joseph’s son, the carpenter from Nazareth.

But then he started to shine. And some people started to learn that he was what John the gospel writer called “The Light.” John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Despite the trouble people would go to get rid of that light, they couldn’t extinguish it.

“The true light,” John wrote, “which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Everyone! Hope comes when we recognize that Bethlehem is everywhere – that whether we think of ourselves as Mary or Joseph, shepherd or wise man – God is with us! God is full of surprises, and one of them is that God is always near us, as near as our breath, as near as our flesh – even if we’re not important or well-known or rich.

I think that’s why after all these centuries, people find that this story captures their imagination and their hearts. It’s not the story of great people who get what’s coming to them. It’s the story of little, ordinary people whom God chose, people who were the last ones anyone would expect to be chosen, the humblest of people. The angels proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Shepherds. A peasant mother. A carpenter father. Ox and ass, sheep and doves. The powerful are being ignored, and the lowly are given access to the king who sets them free.

And we find the climax of this story, the story of all these lowly people who were chosen to play a part in God’s coming to earth, in the incarnation – Christ-like-us – God-with-us. God has come here – right here – to light our lives, to give us hope, to be with us in everything that happens to us – our suffering and our joys – through this Someone who was born as a poor little baby in the humblest of circumstances, and who grew up to be someone who suffered like an ordinary person. Someone just like us who was also God.

This Christmas season, remember that the gift of Jesus at Christmas is for you. It’s a message you can treasure in your heart, just as Mary ponders in her heart what has happened with her and her little family. That’s God’s surprise. God came in the form of a baby who would grow into a man who would teach, live, suffer, die, and rise from the dead, for you. May God bless you richly this Christmas, however you spend the day, whoever you are with, whoever you are. The gift is for you. Amen.

Pastor Janet Blair

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