For Unto Us

   We draw close to Christmas; it is only a week or so away. More importantly, Christ draws close to us.


   He presses into our lives to give us freedom and life.


   At our church building, we will gather on Christmas Eve. Amid our celebrations lays a little baby, the Baby, God incarnate, God who joins humanity. Awash in candlelight, gently singing “Silent Night,” tears will flood eyes, joy bubble up in hearts, and we will bow before the Christ Child.


   Because the old words of the Authorized Bible (KJV) have been deeply etched into the memories of so many, we will hear among them:


   And so, it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2: 6-8)


   Images of the holy family — the Baby wrapped in linens, Mary aglow with love and joy, and Joseph standing protectively over his dear ones — float into our imaginations.


   Animals look on with their creaturely interest alerted to the presence of God. Then our eyes search beyond the family into the dark hills. Lit by starlight, we see sheep and shepherd. Into this pastoral scene, suddenly an angel appears, shining with reflected splendor and flooding shepherd eyes and hearts with the light of glory. He announces:


   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. (Luke 2:10-11)


   With this proclamation of good tidings of great joy, an angelic army appears and echoes the archangel’s announcement:


   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)


   In Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life and ministry, the angel’s declaration to the shepherds is the third annunciation. Considered together, the three angelic annunciations reveal a divine dynamic of the pressing of God’s grace beyond the expected holy places and people.


   His favor pushes into the sacred spaces of the holy temple and to the person of a consecrated priest and beyond.

Grace presses into the peasant home in a dishonored town and to the person of an unpretentious young unmarried woman.


   Finally, God’s favor shoulders its way to the unkempt and humble hills and to the persons of disreputable shepherds. In the scene of the first annunciation, a priest, pious and upright, amid the performance of the sacred rite of incense burning, old Zechariah hears the angel promise the birth of his and Elizabeth’s son, a miracle child considering their advanced ages.


   Skepticism meets the angel’s announcement. Zechariah is silenced until his son, John the Baptizer, is born.


   The second annunciation comes to Mary, a woman in a male-dominated culture, young in a society that honors aging.


   The angel announces that her Baby will be the Son of God and conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.


   This message finds faith, “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant; let it be done to me according to your word.”


   The third annunciation reaches the shepherds and sends them to share God’s good news with all who will listen.


   On Christmas Eve, we will gather to listen. Like the shepherds, having heard we are called to tell everyone the message of this Child: Shalom on earth to those with whom God is well-pleased, those who trust the message of the Child. God’s love presses to you. Receive the Baby’s gift, the Child himself.