Why do we spend so many weeks waiting and preparing for Jesus, when we already know how the story goes? We know about the proclamation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, we know how Joseph almost broke off the engagement to her when he found out she was pregnant. We know that John the Baptist was conceived just a few months before Jesus and that John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth when she and Mary met during their pregnancies. We know about the night spent in a stable in the small city of Bethlehem, how Jesus was born in very unlikely, extraordinary circumstances. We have heard time and again about the visiting shepherds, singing angelic hosts, and the fear of King Herod when he found out about the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.
We know the story, we know how it goes, so why do we wait for it, and why do we tell it over and over again, every year? Advent means the arrival of something, but isn’t Jesus already here, in our hearts? Are we waiting for Jesus the baby once again, when we already know of Jesus the man, who was crucified, died, and was buried; and who three days later resurrected from the dead? What is it about the birth of this little baby anyways? I am sure there have been many babies around the world, born in similar circumstances (though maybe without the angelic hosts but who knows), born into poverty, born out of wedlock, born among the animals and not in a nice fancy house, hotel, or hospital. Wrapped in bands of cloth, when there were no formal clothes to wear.
That is the reality of our world. So many do not have enough, while many of us live in a state of affluence, not really understanding what that is like! It still has not changed almost 2,000 years later, so many babies and young children still suffer in this world of sufficient abundance. That must be the reason why we still tell this story of the birth of a poor Savior in an oppressed land. God chose to become human in a most unexpected way. Not born in a royal palace, but born as a commoner, born into a difficult time, in the middle of cold winter, in a small backwater country, without a bed, and soon to be on the run to another country, fleeing violence and persecution from a jealous King.
God chose to take on the human form of this baby boy. Defenseless, vulnerable, persecuted since conception, exposed to the harsh elements of nature. And we are reminded through this story that all babies are children of the Father of lights. We learn once again that all children are amazing, unique, beautiful creations of God that are to be cherished, nurtured, and encouraged in this life. And we are called to care for our own children, and protect and support all children who are in need.
Even as we love to take the time with family and friends and often we give too many presents to our little ones because we want them to be happy, we are reminded that there are so many who go without, so many who are in need each and every day. What a blessing it is to be a part of St. Paul Lutheran Church, to see the incredible generosity that members this church share in the broader community. Making sure that young people in our neighborhoods and around the world, have a joyous Christmas celebration. To know that they are loved by others, and that they are loved by God.
Yes, God chose to enter into human existence through a frail baby, but that newborn was not alone. Mary was there caring for him, Joseph was there as an adoptive father, stepping in to protect this precious bundle of joy. And who could imagine that the shepherds and the wise men would arrive to pay him homage, just as we do 2,000 years later. So indeed, we await this babe of Bethlehem once again in the year 2021. We await the coming of our Savior as a newborn King. We await this complete change in the way we normally act in the world, filling our hearts anew with love and generosity. We await once again the coming of baby Jesus Christ.
May God bless us all this Advent and Christmas Season, with the Spirit of love, peace, and joy, and send us out to care for all of God’s children. Amen.