December 24, 2018
Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
The New Born King in the Manger
One of the amazing assertions about Christmas is that God took human form and came into the world. We call that event “Incarnation.” Speaking specifically, the dark and cold night in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, God came into the world in human flesh, in the person of Jesus.
I wonder how you like to picture the birth of Jesus Christ into the world 2,000 years ago. And yet, each time I meditate on the Christmas story, I am struck by the fact that our Savior Jesus was laid on a manger in a stable in a small town of Bethlehem. What a strange place for the Prince of Peace and the King of kings!?!
Born in an animal barn
The story of Christmas in Luke’s Gospel actually has angels who appeared to Mary and Joseph and sang to shepherds in the field watching over their flocks at night: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (v. 14). The appearance of the angels definitely tells us that Jesus was a very special and divine baby. But strangely, the angels suddenly disappeared at the moment when Jesus was born in the world. They kept their distance from the birth of Christ.
Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2 starts with the wise men who had traveled far to praise the birth of baby Jesus. According to biblical scholars, those wise men were actually kings of their own countries. The pagan kings made a long trip from the East to Jerusalem just to praise the baby Jesus! That means that Jesus is the king of the kings of all the nations. But interestingly, those royal kings or wise men were not there yet when Jesus was born in the world.
Then, who was there when he was born in a manger? Who received the baby and celebrated his birth? According to the text for tonight, those are Mary and Joseph, simple shepherds, and the animals in the barn (vv. 15-20). No doubt they were very humble and lowly ones in God’s creation.
Luke’s Gospel clearly testifies that the birth of Jesus was far from a grand birth. Rather, it was a very lowly and humble one – no glowing radiance, no kings praising, no angels singing for the birth.
Some animals must be there because it was a barn. In our Christmas nativity, it looks so cute and lovely that the baby Jesus was surrounded by animals. But have you ever thought about the smells and noises in the barn from animals? What kind of mom wants to bear her baby in an animal’s barn? We don’t actually like to think about smells, dirt, pain, blood, and fear of giving the childbirth in a manger. The birth of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel was certainly not a pretty sight. It must have been frightening and disappointing to Mary and Joseph.
Our almighty God became flesh – not aiming to be born in a palace, but in a stinky barn. What a humble incarnation it is! However, in that moment, the moment of Jesus’ humble birth, everything in the world has come to change. As the disciple Paul says in the letter to Titus, “Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (v. 11).
Personally, I really appreciate and like Christ’s humble birth in the manger; it is good news to me because I know my existence is much closer to the humble manger than the elegant palace. The world doesn’t care about me; the world doesn’t pay attention to me because I am too little, too poor, too ordinary. But if the Spirit of God was incarnated in a dirty and smelly barn over 2,000 years ago, then the same Spirit of God is surely present within you and me today.
Glory to the newborn King
Over 2,000 years ago, God the highest joined this ordinary, dirty, smelly world of ours. This night, Christ is born within our humble, broken, and even sinful lives as well. The prophet Isaiah already prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined” (v. 1). What he was trying to say is Christ would be born to bring the light and salvation to the darkness in our hearts and in our world, and this is our belief, our hope, and our witness to the world that still doesn’t know and doesn’t accept the Christ our Savior.
May Christ be born anew within each of us, and may Christ grow and mature within our hearts throughout the year and forevermore. And, because Christ is born anew this night, we join our voices with the angels visiting the lowly shepherds in the field, and we too lift up our voice in singing “Glory to the newborn King.” Amen.