Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas


When the angel came in unto Mary, she was troubled: she thought that something was wrong. And why shouldn’t she? Who has ever seen an angel? Not many. In all the history of the world, not many. And who has ever heard an angel speak? Only few. And why should this humble maiden in her little dark-corner room in the little-known northern town of Nazareth be one of them? Does it not seem as though something is out of place here? As though something is not right? So Mary was troubled. She thought something was wrong.

But the angel said unto her, Fear not. As if to say, No, Mary, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and shall his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. What seems to you to be so troubling and what is actually the case are not the same thing. Do not be deceived. You are troubled, but you should not be troubled. Fear not, Mary.

When Mary and Joseph then came to Bethlehem and found no room in the inn, and were therefore constrained to choose a rude stall for the birth of her son, they were both likely very troubled: they likely thought that something was terribly wrong. And why shouldn’t they think that? The decree from Caesar Augustus came at the worst possible time for them, when she was due to deliver her Child, and was in no condition to travel down to Bethlehem. And when they arrived, they found that there was no room for them in the inn, no doubt because there were many that were of the house and lineage of David who also had to come to Bethlehem. The village and its one-horse inn would not be sufficient to handle so many visitors, to say nothing of an expectant mother about to be delivered of her child. So it was on that dark and frantic night, that everything seemed so very wrong.

But no, Mary and Joseph, the truth is that nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light. 

For this is the story of your salvation, and of the salvation of all the world. So it was that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. What seems to be an occasion so worthy of dread and foreboding is actually an occasion for the welling up of abiding and eternal joy. O Mary! O Joseph! If you are troubled this night, your fears are unfounded. For God is with you. Immanuel has come.  And he has come in exactly the way he meant to come, shrouded in humility and meekness, so that he might share with us in all our troubles and turn them all for good. Do not be deceived about this. Fear not, Mary and Joseph.

When the shepherds saw the angel of the Lord come upon them, and the glory of the Lord shining round about them, they were sore afraid: they, too, thought that something was wrong. For in this case, it was not only the appearance of an angel that was startling, but the glory of the Lord God Almighty shining round about them. Who ever sees such things? They were sore afraid! Who wouldn’t be? But the angel said unto them, Fear not. For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.

As if to say, No, dear shepherds, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For the glory of the Lord is revealed this day for you, for your salvation and rescue. Today is not a day to be afraid, but a day to rejoice. You, simple and ordinary shepherds, who might be able to defend your sheep against natural predators, but who have no means of defense against the glory of God, need not, nevertheless, be afraid: do not be deceived by what see here, for this angel comes not to condemn or punish, but with good news, tremendous news, overwhelmingly marvelous news: your Savior has arrived, your Defender and Shield, your Rock and your Buckler, and the Horn of your salvation. God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay! Fear not, good shepherds!

When those shepherds then heard and saw a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, they were likely even more troubled, confused, and still at least somewhat afraid, notwithstanding the angel’s comforting reassurance that they need not fear. They, seeing this countryside of heavenly troops all ready for battle—for that is what a host is--they likely thought that something was dreadfully wrong. Who sees such things? Who is witness to such majesty? Who can abide the day of his coming? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap. Our God is a consuming fire. And here, before these poor simple shepherds was a multitude of the heavenly army of angels, all standing before them.

But the angels’ words to them were as if to say unto them, No, dear shepherds, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For the meaning of this Child’s birth to you, o shepherds, is this: the highest and greatest glory of God is his coming, here and now, to rescue his poor people from sin, death, and hell. There is no enmity between God and man today, there is no need for these heavenly soldiers to fight (and who could stand a chance to survive against them?); the heavenly armies are not here to make war today, but to announce peace! Peace! Good will toward men! Be not deceived! Heaven does not fight you today! Heaven embraces you!

So therefore, dearly beloved in the Christ-Child, whenever you are troubled, whenever there is sorrow, or darkness, or fretting, or dread, or worry, or regret, or the weight of sin and guilt, or the awareness of mortality, or the approach of death, or whatever may becloud your mind: whenever you are troubled, you will also think that something is wrong. And why shouldn’t you? You can surely recite all the things in your life that you could wish otherwise, the things that are and that should not be, the things that for so many people can so easily be said to bring to ruin this time of year—Christmas—that is supposed to be so happy. Should you not be troubled?

But the angel says also unto you, this day: Fear not. As if to say, No, my dear ones, nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. Behold this tiny Child. Consider the manner of his coming: as a newborn infant, so very small, who today has such tiny hands and feet, who today requires the bosom of his mother for comfort, and the swaddling of her wrap for warmth. Consider this wondrous coming: it seemed at first to be so full of fear and foreboding for his mother, for Joseph, and for the shepherds, but it was—o joy!—nothing of the kind. For how can such a tiny child be frightening to anyone? See him in the manger, beloved:  see, there is nothing to fear here.

For the people of the Gospel this was a time to rejoice and be exceeding glad. So learn from this today, his dear children: learn to lay aside your fears, and your dread, and your worry, and even your sorrow and regret. Learn from this not to trust what you sense, or fear, or dread. Do not let the devil’s tricks deceive you into worry, that would rob you of rejoicing and gladness. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, your Christmas has not been ruined. Your Christmas cannot be ruined, not now, not ever.


For nothing is wrong. Everything is right. Nothing is darkness. Everything is light. For Christ, the Savior of the world, is born for you this night.

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