Marcus C. Lambright
Peace on Earth
Christmas Eve reflection
2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Announcement to shepherds
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
What draws our attention in this story? Any good storyteller draws you in and helps you focus on the important details. Different people will focus on different aspects. The author of Luke was familiar with the Romans, whose ears might perk up at the mention of "a Savior"--an uncommon term for the gospels but common for Roman propaganda. The people of Israel might hear the parallels between the shepherds encountering the divine and heading to the city of king David, who was a shepherd himself when he first encountered God.* The scholars might analyze if the timeline for the events that occurred match up.
But what do you hear?
Perhaps there are things that resonate with us today. In a year that the census was taken and lodgings were hard to come by, families were making the best of their situation. Childbirth is a challenge all its own even with adequate healthcare. Imagine having to move about close to one's due date and deliver--alone--in a stable. Yet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were not alone. God was with them. The shepherds came to them. The shepherds left their jobs and homes to witness this remarkable event. This Christmas is a reminder that in our most difficult times, when we feel most alone, God calls us to look for the light of Christ and share it with others.
We have experienced the depths of sin and the overwhelming power of grace this year.
Some of us won't have a return to normalcy for some time but we now know there are people who give, serve, connect, protect, shelter, advocate for, and care for the needs of others regardless of how well they will fare. In Christmas, God transforms our hearts through this infant to see the power of love in the frailty of life. At some point, the shepherds returned home but they were forever changed in their hearts. They continued as shepherds but with renewed purpose. We help bring peace on earth and glory to God that the angel spoke of when our lives turn outwardly, towards God, and recognize the moment for what it is: a chance to share the light of Christ with others.
*Bearing a first-born son was a huge event in lives of the people of Israel, too!