Christmas Eve - Day 1, RCL, All Years
Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14(15-20); Psalm 96
“Don’t blink, don’t even blink” is the warning that Dr. Who gives to people who encounter the weeping angels. For those who aren’t familiar, these weeping angels appear to be beautifully carved gothic stone statues of angels. They appear this way only while you’re looking at them. If, or when, you close your eyes they become alive, moving swiftly, just waiting to get their hands or teeth on you. Most of the stories of angels in the Bible start out with them telling us “do not be afraid.” This leads many to believe that angels must be very scary. But it isn’t the angels we need to be afraid of, is it?
Christ has been born and this has upset the world ever since. Kings have been afraid. One even sent his armies to kill all the children, hoping Jesus would be in the mix. Terrified priests brought false accusations against Jesus; handing him over to the Roman authorities to be killed. Some even say that Satan is afraid of Jesus because Christ overcame death and continues to disrupt his plans. In more modern times, the predominantly Roman Catholic countries of Argentina and Guatemala once banned the recitation of the Magnificat, the Song that Mary sang when she realized she was carrying the Messiah. This purported bans were because the governments felt it was too subversive; giving the poor and marginalized hope that through Jesus things could change for the better, frightened them.
After the shepherds are introduced to the angel, a whole band of angels came together and started singing. Then the shepherds go off “to find this thing” that the angels were talking about. They are not quite sure what they are getting into. They don’t seem to be able to describe it very well. “Let us go . . . and see this thing,” they say. What thing; what is the “thing” they are looking for? Is Jesus the thing? The angel says this baby “will be a sign to you.” This baby is not just a baby. He is not just the Messiah. This baby is also a sign.
For these shepherds, this baby was a sign that what the angel said was true. When they found the baby “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger,” they knew that they could trust the angel that a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord was born.
Though our country is not one, people around the world live in persecution because of their faith in Christ. The governments, at least in part, feel threatened by what Christ came to do and by the hope he sustains in his followers. “He has mercy on those who fear him . . . he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty . . . and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty”[i]
Again the angel says, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” And this can be good news for all the people but as we know it isn’t. It is not good news for those who abuse their power and privilege. It is only good news for those who are willing to turn their lives to the Lord. For then he will shoulder the yoke of your burden and break the rod of the oppressor. Isaiah even says that this son given to us has authority and “his authority shall grow continually and there shall be endless peace.”
Christ’s authority is growing even if we do not see it. We see the decline of Christianity as a sign of Christ losing authority, not increasing. We see the turbulence, violence, and the unpredictability of life around us as signs of people moving away from God and thus God losing authority. We see these signs as contradictory to Isaiah’s vision of Christ’s growing authority moving us toward endless peace.
If you look at the book of Revelation, many will say the end times come with a huge increase in violence; a time of war and mayhem. Though our fears are heightened, and we see headlines reporting atrocities in our country and around the world, increasing violence is not what we are actually living in. As unbelievable as it may seem, research tells us that we are living in the most peaceable times in recorded history.[ii] If anything, we are seeing Mary’s and Isiah’s vision of increasing peace and unity between people and countries around the world.
For some this child born is a threat to their power but what about us, what could we possibly be afraid of? When we realize who this child is, maybe our hearts should tremble; even if just a bit. Our hearts should tremble if we do not listen and understand God’s message to us. We should tremble if we are the ones oppressing others, even if we do not realize we are doing so. And we should tremble if we are not looking out for the poor and the marginalized.
For us today, a baby has been born who is a sign; something we can look toward and understand. This sign is a little child who allows our hearts to sing with joy; for he is the savior who redeems us and gives us the courage to strive on even in our toughest times. He is a sign of great hope. He is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Through Christ, we cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged. He is the one who allows light to shine in our hearts. He removes all darkness so that we can be a beacon to all the world; finding hope and peace where others cannot.
[i] Luke 1:49-52 (The Magnificat)
[ii] http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/04/15/the-decline-war-and-violence/lxhtEplvppt0Bz9kPphzkL/story.html?event=event25 & https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/history-and-the-decline-of-human-violence/