Gift for all
Luke 2:1-20

Don’t you love hearing those familiar words in the texts that we hear each Christmas, words that we learned as lines for Sunday School Christmas presentations before most of us were tall enough to see over the lectern, in the days before microphones were considered necessary.  We would gather excitedly for weeks ahead practicing our lines then our mum’s would organise our costumes and then it was time to go.

Unfortunately because we’ve heard the Christmas narrative texts so many times, and may have even learned them by heart, we run the risk of taking them for granted.  When we hear those words, “In those days a decree went out”, our minds go, “Yep, Christmas story, Emperors, shepherds, angels, mangers all of that is coming, know this one, job’s right.”

I even found that this year I almost had to force myself to quietly meditate on the words, to read them a few times, trying to visualise myself in the scene.  I did this to enable myself to hear the words and take them in.  Maybe that would benefit you too, as I describe the story try and place yourself there with Mary and Joseph, with the shepherds and the angels.

Let’s give it a go:
There were many people travelling, returning home to be registered, so that the emperor could make sure that everyone was paying taxes, so that they knew how many people there were and how much they could expect to gather into the coffers. 

It would be like me travelling back to Eyre Peninsula for a census night, a solid journey that would lead to tiredness, even exhaustion.  But for them it would have been dusty and dirty out on the roads with so many people moving about.  As we know, there were no vacancies in the inn, that’s how busy it was.  Yet Joseph was desperate to find somewhere for Mary to give birth.

The baby was then wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger to rest.  This same baby is then a link to the story of the shepherds out in the fields, minding their own business but minding their flocks at the same time.  Then an angel appeared out of nowhere and told them not to be afraid, there was good news, a baby has been born, he is wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger, a sign for them that a saviour has been born for them!

Then a whole crowd of angels turned up and started praising God.  So they set off to find out if the angel was speaking the truth.  To their delight they discovered it was exactly as the angel had said.

They returned to care for their flocks and Mary went back to caring for the Son of God, the whole time treasuring the words and realising that all of this was the fulfilment of the promise that God had made to her through the angel.

What stuck out for me this year, as I took another journey of discovery through these texts were the humble and lowly people that God chose to be the first to hear the good news and travel to visit the new baby Jesus.  It wasn’t an emperor or a military person, no town officials or tax collectors, just the ordinary shepherds who were out in the fields.  They would have had to leave their own flocks for a while to go and check out the story the angel had given to them.  This must have been important information for them to risk their flocks for however long it took to head out on their mission of discovery.

The angel said that the good news was for all and this was demonstrated by the people the message was given to.  A bunch of shepherds in the hills of Judea were the starting point.  That has now spread to all the ends of the earth.  The message to you is the same.  “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people, to you is born this day in the city of David, a saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”.  This child became your personal saviour too.  Everything he did was for your benefit, as a pure and unadulterated gift for each and every one of you.

I know you may feel as though you are not worthy, and ask how this could possibly be the case.  But this is what we read, this is what we believe.  God gave us his son, to become a human being and live on this earth for our benefit, so that through him you will be saved.  Treasure these words, rejoice in them, leap for joy.  Celebrate the wonderful gift that God gave to you, yes you personally on that first Christmas night.  A baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, for your sake and for your benefit because he loves you.  Be amazed, be excited and give thanks to God for our Lord and Saviour Jesus.

Amen.