At Christmas time the obvious text is the birth of the Christ Child in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. It is a beautiful story of God’s graciousness and provision to a young couple in dire straights. Joseph and Mary were poor and needy and the God of the universe provided for them, albeit with meager means, by our standards. There was no room for them in the inn, the place where proper men dwelt, so God provided for them in a stable, or as some legends have it, in a cave.
Instead of being appalled at the enormity of the insult to our God and the blessed Virgin and her betrothed husband, we romanticize the event. But there was little romance in it. Many of you here have had, or have witnessed the experience of having, a baby. It is frought with dangers, even in the most modern medical facilities. Having babies is dangerous business. Can you imagine going into labor on a cold winter night in a place far from home with your only recourse being to the nearest barn or a hole carved into a cliff? Far from romantic, this experience would be the most frightening.
Put on top of that the fact that Mary knew that she was carrying the Son of God. I assume that she was able to place that burden into the arms of God, Himself. But I have wondered about this. Perhaps she felt the burden of protecting Him against enemies, keeping Him alive, nurturing him until His time had come. Joseph and Mary eventually do flee to Egypt to keep the boy Jesus alive. God used them as His protector and they clearly felt the weight of this duty to some degree unknown to us.
Of course, the story of the shepherds is wonderful, too. The angel appeared to them and they were moved to seek out the Messiah, Christ the Lord. How moved and surprised they must have been to see the baby Jesus, not in royal robes or a king’s carriage but wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough.
The visit of the wise men was no doubt some time later. But even they were no doubt equally amazed to find the baby Jesus in the home of poor laborers of Israel, rather than in the King’s palace that they had expected.
The story is beautiful. But if we give it just a little more thought than our cute children’s Christmas pageants, we see that something quite unexpected is going on. God has entered creation and humanity in a way that would never have been foreseen by the wise of this world.
Our sermon title is Joy to the World. And great joy it is. But unless we see the enormity of the need, we have a hard time understanding the exceedingly great nature of the joy.
We understand, to some degree, the plight of fallen man. In Adam all fell into sin and were in need of being saved from this wretched state. In the very beginning, in the garden, God made a promise to Eve, the mother of all living. Gen 3:15 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
One day, the seed of the woman would rise up and crush the seed of the serpent. He would give that serpent a final crushing blow to the head. This promise grows as God systematically reveals His will towards men.
Through the ages, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph and Moses, to David and His seed, the vision of this promise grew. Israel understood that God had made this promise and though they have seen partial fulfillments of His promise in beating back enemies, in restoring them to the land, in the rebuilding of the temple, the final crushing blow never arrives. They wait upon the Lord. They know that one day God will raise up a King that will be King of kings and Lord of lords. They knew that of His government there shall be no end.
Each victory over their enemies must have occasioned all sorts of hope that the Messiah was soon to arrive to save the people Israel from their enemies. But time marched on and their futility marched on. And hope waxed old and the chosen people grew cold. And in this coldness, on a cold night, with a cold heart turning away a poor pregnant woman in labor, God’s promise to humanity is born.