Luke 2:1-7, 15-20
December 24, 2019
Village Chapel Presbyterian Church
Dr. Todd R. Wright
Luke is pretty spare with the details: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth …”
But you can convey a lot in a few words. Ernest Hemingway is credited with penning a six-word story – “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
There’s a story there … if you give your imagination free rein.
In terms of potent brevity, Luke gives him a run for the money with, “[She] laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
There’s a story there, too.
A story that scholars have tried to supply with explanations about the mass migration of people during the census, the true meaning of the word translated as “inn”, and the architecture of dwellings in first century Palestine.
A story that has served a fodder for Christmas pageants that include lines for the innkeeper … including one kind-hearted little boy who ad-libbed, “Wait! Come back! Take my bed for the night!”
A story that has inspired lots of artists, especially cartoonists.
But Luke doesn’t seem interested in elaborating on the bare facts.
He proves much more interested in the response of some local shepherds who are told by an angel that the baby born in Bethlehem is the Messiah.
He says they were curious.
He says they “went with haste” and found Mary and Joseph and the baby.
He says they told the story of what they had been told about the baby … and all who heard it were amazed!
So I’m wondering about how we respond to news of the baby’s birth in Bethlehem.
The first time you heard the story, were you curious about who the baby would grow up to be? Would the angels be right? Would he be the Savior? Who would he save? How?
Was it a compelling enough story that you dropped everything? Were you willing to make a stir? Ask questions? After all the shepherds would have needed to knock on a lot of doors to find the new-born – a middle of the night scavenger hunt! And unless a few stayed behind, they would have brought their sheep with them. Imagine that: a whole flock of sheep being driven through narrow streets from one home to another, waking everyone until the whole village had heard that there had been a special birth.
Would you have told others why you were so driven to find this particular baby? Would you have shrugged off those strange looks when you said you had heard it from an angel? Would you risk what meager dignity you possessed to chase down a rumor?
How about today, right now, tonight? Are you curious? Not just about what God did, but what God is doing? If past is prologue, you can bet it’ll be creative, unexpected, unusual, wonderful!
Does that change the course of your life? Make you do things that others find strange? Like taking time away from your job to work on a Habitat House? Or inviting a neighbor to join you for church? Or giving your hard earned money to the ministry of a church?
Are you bold enough to tell others what you have heard and experienced? How God answered a prayer, or inspired you, or kindled hope when the world seemed pretty dark? Would you be willing to share such a gift with others who might be desperately looking for some “good news of great joy”?
According to Luke, the shepherds, are the first to hear about what God has done and they are the first to spread the good news. What makes that unusual is that they were common folks, with no special skills or training. What they did, anyone could do, even us.
So, how will you respond to the birth of the Savior? Amen