Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The true meaning of Christmas

Luke 2: 1-20, New International Version

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


B. Prokop said...

To me the most amazing thing about that passage are these words: "And this shall be a sign to you." For years, as many times as I read that particular passage, I couldn't help but wonder, just what sort of "sign" was the angel talking about? Why didn't he just say, "You shall find a baby..."?

Well, no one ever told me I didn't have a concrete brain, so perhaps it's no wonder that it took 50 years and 10 bazillion readings to finally get it. The sign is not the baby, it's the manger! "Manger" sounds so cute to us nowadays, what with Christmas nativity scenes all pristine and sanitized, with the Christ Child laying in a neatly combed bed of hay, with perfectly coiffed blonde hair. But just think about it. A manger is an animal feeding trough! Probably filthy and indescribably disgusting to our 21st Century tastes.

The "sign" was Our Lord and Savior appearing not as an all-powerful King and Creator of All Things Visible and Invisible, but as a helpless baby, in the poorest of circumstances, shut out of the inn and consigned to a barn, soon to be hunted down and driven into exile by the bloodthirsty tyrant Herod (and ultimately to be crucified by the Powers That Be). That is the sign - for the lowest of society's members (the shepherds), and for us.

Merry Christmas, and Jezu ufam tobie!

David Duffy said...

"peace to those on whom his favor rests"

Bob wrote about the words he wondered about for a long while and then came to some understanding of their meaning.

To this day, I still wonder about peace and favor for myself.

B. Prokop said...

Dave, it might not be as difficult as you think. Who are those upon whom God's favor rests? Surely they are those who are at the very least open to sharing in the life of the Trinity - a self-giving, loving relationship between equals, putting the good of the beloved before themselves. As Charles Williams put it:

The everlasting house the soul discovers
is always another's; we must lose our own ends;
we must always live in the habitation of our lovers,
my friend's shelter for me, mine for him

When we try to live for ourselves, we are going against the grain of reality, fighting against the very nature of things. We are doomed to failure. How can "God's favor" rest upon those who do all within their power to reject it?

Peace comes to those who embrace Trinitarian Love.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

"How can "God's favor" rest upon those who do all within their power to reject it?"

Which, ultimately, explains why Hell even exists -- Hell just is the adamant rejection of loving God and being beloved of God.