Christmas evokes thoughts of shopping, presents, cookies, Christmas Carols, Baby Jesus born in Bethlehem, stockings, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, concerts, parties, seeing family, holly, decorations, favorite foods, cards and snow. Each year we hope for a picture-perfect Christmas with pretty white snowflakes falling from the sky.
Yet, Jesus was born in a warm climate amidst palm trees and people wearing sandals.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
When we strip away all these traditions and read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke on a hot summer day, how does it change? What do we hear in the words? Can we imagine a young woman in her teens, traveling for miles in the last days of her pregnancy? She’s probably hot, tired, scared and facing the unknown. The fear of being told she is going to have this baby who is Immanuel – God with us. The fear of her fiancée abandoning her when he learns of the child. The fear of scorn by family and friends. The fear of a long journey at an inopportune time. The fear when the family learns they cannot return home because their child may be killed by Herod. All this amidst the heat that makes people irritable. This was not the plan…everything about this is unknown and feels out of control.
God where are you? What is going on?
All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace. Call us out of darkness and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
(Christmas prayer, ELW p. 20)