Arriving in the Darkness of the Night!

Mary, the strong One!
December 20, 2023
Hopeful Midwives!
December 21, 2023
Mary, the strong One!
December 20, 2023
Hopeful Midwives!
December 21, 2023

The story of Jesus’ birth is so familiar and so beloved, and it is one of the most well known of all the world’s religious stories.  Tonight, we tell ourselves once again, the story of Jesus’ birth, to smile with remembrance at past Christmases, with hope, with love, joy and peace.  Tomorrow morning, we turn our attention to the good news of Jesus’ birth being shared with the shepherds and the people in the countryside around Bethlehem as we hear what happens next, how God tells the world about the good news.

In our social media at the moment there are plenty of images of the nativity scene, set in bomb shelters and among the ruins of broken buildings. The star in the heavens are instead missiles and explosions.   Mary, Joseph and Jesus are seen as refugees, seeking asylum while fleeing the terror of Herod’s vengeance, of the power of empire promising peace and instead enacting violence, horror and death on its citizens. 

Luke tells the story very simply, without drama and with only a little to anchor the story into human history, yet he is at great pains to place the story of Jesus in the context of the Roman Empire.  The dramatic expectations fade away into the normal concerns of dealing with exhausting travel on the back of a donkey when 9 months pregnant, birthing pains and no mention of a midwife, giving birth while away from family and friends, sharing the drama with the animals in the stable as Joseph and Mary manage.

Tonight, like many babies, Jesus makes his arrival in the quiet of the night.  Completely opposite to the dramatic announcement of his birth nine months earlier with the angel Gabriel speaking with Mary; on this night, the sky is clear and bright and the air is cold. The star is bright. The warmth of the animals’ bodies in the stable help to keep the small family warm and there is sufficient cloth to wrap the baby up as he is placed in the stone manger on the hay to keep him safe and warm.

God’s presence on earth, the revelation of God in Jesus, embodied in his very person, means Jesus is God’s creating Word made flesh. Luke contrasts the power of the emperor Augustus to the power of the child born with only a manger for a bed, in an Inn’s stable in Bethlehem to poor parents who were answering a call to be counted for a tax census.  Its hard to see at this point, Jesus being a rival power to Augustus. 

The simplicity and quietness of Jesus’ arrival in contrast to an Emperor’s son being born, guides us towards the quietness of this moment, the stillness of the night, the birthing of hope, love, joy and peace in the face of Jesus Christ.  We become midwives here tonight, of the Good News made real in God’s presence among us, in spite of the world’s horrors. We become witnesses, in solidarity with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, telling the world about the good news.  We comfort those who mourn and we bring glad tidings to all people.

There will be babies born tonight who will not survive the violence of their nativity, and parents who will not survive to see their children grown.  There will be refugees who are never able to go home again unlike Joseph and Mary, and the promises of peace, are forever torn asunder, destroyed without hope or joy. 

God tears open the heart of humanity in this story, in this incarnation, as a new creation, a promise, a covenant is made in the person of Jesus Christ with all humanity.  The baby who becomes the man on the cross is God with the people rather than God over people.  God lifts up the oppressed and fills those who are hungry in body, mind and soul with God’s blessings.  In Jesus, God turns the tables on the powers of the world.   Iraneaus wrote in the second century: ‘Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are, so that he might make us to be what he is.’

What will Jesus make us into if we let him?  What does it mean to be made into the likeness of the babe in the manger, hailed as Lord of All, and then killed by nieghbours and strangers?  Who will we be in response to this story and God’s bigger story?

As we consider the love expressed in this story we have heard tonight, I hope we will also remember the other nativities happening elsewhere in the world where peace and opportunities to survive are less likely.  Jesus is the peace of God’s power made real, as power through love and compassion, rather than power through violence. 

I hope you will be like Jesus the peace-maker, Jesus the one who loves rather than fears or hates, Jesus the one who brings hope and joy, rather than judgement, rejection and death, because my wayward mind can’t help wondering, if Jesus was being born today into a poor family in Bethlehem, I’m not sure he could survive the world’s response again.  Let us make sure this is not the case for Jesus today.

The Lord be with you. 

Reference

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds]. 2014.  Feasting on the Gospels.  Luke, Volume 1 Chapters 1-11.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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