Christmas Eve 2020
“The time came to give birth.” “And she gave birth.”
As was pointed out to me about 25 years ago by Reverend Marta in a Christmas Eve sermon in Kent, WA, Luke skips right over the labor. And that’s allowed many of us to forget about the fact that Mary was in labor and what that would’ve entailed.
First of all, Mary was a 14-year-old girl in her ninth month of pregnancy, who traveled on a donkey quite a distance to finally reach the town of her in-laws. And that was before the real drama began.
Now I have attended a birth, and many of you have given birth. I know one thing, a birth is loud, sweaty and bloody. It stands to reason that Mary and Joseph did not go through the birth of Jesus alone. Professionals and support people have to be there to care for the mom and aid the birth of the baby. Obviously other women were there. Most likely a midwife was present to assist in the birth; and probably more female in-laws were attending to Mary. The miracle of Christmas ought to include that Mary survived Christmas Eve.
In other words, Mary’s child birth experience needs to be better acknowledged, if not by Luke, then at least by us. The second point I want to focus on tonight are the shepherds.
Luke’s account of the nativity includes a reference to the governor of Syria, and Herod, and Caesar; as well as angels, shepherds and foreign kings traveling through the dessert. And yet, the shepherds are at the center of the story.
Luke tells us that Angels came down from heaven to announce the birth of this baby. They told the shepherds that because of this little baby the world is about to change.
What is happening in Bethlehem tonight will affect everyone from shepherds to emperors. However, there is no account of God sending Angels with ‘tiding of great joy’ to the politically powerful leaders. But instead, the angels sought out shepherds minding their sheep, to declare the Good News.
From a socio-economic standpoint, shepherds held a modest place in society. They usually owned their own sheep. They were neither beggars nor landowners. By today’s standards these shepherds could be considered the middle class.
Who are the shepherds in 2020?
Well, who is listening to the Angels tonight as they Herald:
Do not be afraid for you are witness to the Good News.
There will be great joy for you and all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior his been born who is
What you will see tonight is a little baby wrapped in blankets with his mother. He will be a sign for you, a symbol of the Way. Glory to God in the highest and peace to all.
Can you imagine being one of the shepherds who were called to be witness to this baby? Would you have stood in front of this family, amazed and profoundly joyful? Tonight, who among us is excited and grateful to praise and worship God?
Christmas reminds us that a savor is born who will lead us out of darkness and into light. We are reminded not to be afraid. We are reminded that we are called into light to be the light in the world. Tonight, God sends His angels calling us to be shepherds.
Remember Charles Schultz’s, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’? At the end of Charlie Brown’s Christmas misadventure, Linus, the little boy with the security blanket, says, “I know what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. Lights please.” Then Linus recites Luke 2:1-20. When he gets to the part: And the Angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid” Linus drops his blanket in an expression of fearlessness.
Tonight, let’s drop our blankets. Let’s not be afraid.
Mary has labored to bring us the Christ child. The angels came to tell us about it. And as shepherds of old, we are drawn in love to lead a broken world into joy.
Let’s all proclaim the Good News that Christ is born and we are safe. We are his Shepherds. Joy to the world!