For A Child Is Born To Us: Remembering The Reason this Christmas Season
"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
— Isaiah the Prophet
"God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Jesus' birth story: When the gospel (Luke and Matthew) writers open their gospel message with the birth of Messiah Jesus, they are drawing us into their larger narrative and climatic moment of Israel's story finally being fulfilled at last in the new Adam and representative of humanity. Imagine being Jewish and living under Roman rule in the first century and prior to that, continually living under oppressive governments — but while you are living under these regimes, your community (Israel) remembers; remembers the promises spoken by communal prophets hundreds of years before. These words would have been on the lips of the thirsty, the downtrodden, and every sect within this community would have been looking (searching) for a sign, something that would indicate that God had not forsaken the very people whom he had sworn to uphold by his covenant promises (berit is Hebrew for covenant — it is a strong promise that will not be broken by God).
When Luke writes, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” or when Matthew writes, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). These are ways of saying, God has come through for us, and he is with us, and the prophets who spoke long ago, their words are now coming to pass in this little baby who had been born. When Jesus was born, He was born as human, and yes Jesus pooped and left stinky messes for his mom and dad to clean up. Jesus experienced weakness and human emotions (Jesus experienced what we experience as humans). The story in the gospels records that Jesus' family was being hunted by king Herod who wanted him dead, Herod sent people to search for this child to end his life. Jesus and his family became refugees in Egypt (Jesus the refugee). Kings wanted him dead, the one who came to his people, the one who was being rejected by the kingdoms of this world (kingdoms of this age). His birth was unconventional (God seems to work unconventionally), nonetheless this is how he shows up within this beautiful story (Israel's drama which bleeds over into everyone's drama). God does not leave humanity in a pile of dung, no, Jesus enters into this dung and drama enacting faithfulness (righteousness) as the human one (son of man) who would rule over the earth righteously as Messiah dying and rising for his people and it is through this that God makes him king (Matt 28).
Where does this story leave us now in the present tense? Today, I am reminded by my own two children, of the humanness of Jesus and his birth, when I gaze upon them I am reminded of promises, hopes, fears, dreams, ambitions. I am also reminded of all the refugees around the world who have nowhere comfortable to lay their heads at night, I am reminded by the horrors of wars that continue to rage around on this dot that we call home. As I sit safely in my house, laughter and stories of joy surround my family and I, but even then, we still have our longings to be with family who have left us too soon. These words woke me last night, turning over to the sheet of paper I keep by my bed, I wrote down the word “Remember”, so this morning I am writing this to remember. Remembering is a powerful thing that we humans have the capability of sharing with each other. The reason we celebrate traditions and holidays is to remember. This Christmas season, may we remember that God showed up in an unexpected manner through Jesus. This was shocking and surprising to people and not leaving them (us) in the dark, this is the reason we remember the birth of Jesus once a year on this special day, we all need a light in a world that is full of darkness. We remember that in the birth narrative of Christ, humans are not destined for destruction and decay - but that humanity is being renewed (summed up) in and through this Jesus whom God had raised from the dead. May we remember that this Jesus who came to us as a baby will also come to us as brother, Messiah and returning king. May we continually remember that he is faithful and will one day rescue us once again surprising us with the new heavens and earth being united with the family of God on the earth.
I will leave you with this,“In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).
Written by Casey Dayton