December 21, 2014
Last night I drove through a live nativity.
I’ve never done something like that before,
and it was really quite fun!
I drove up and got a cup of hot chocolate
along with CD with the narration to play in the car.
At the first stop I was told I was entering Bethlehem
and there was a census and I needed to pay a tax
for everyone I had with me – including the dog!
At the second stop,
Mary and Joseph were sitting along the roadside
as their donkey ate some hay.
Joseph came up to my window and asked if I knew
of an inn nearby where they might stay…
Then we got to the wise men
who were just beginning their journey.
They had an alpaca
(I guess it’s hard to find a camel in northern Virginia!)
Proudly the wise men announced that they were bringing gifts for the baby:
gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
They seemed good humored,
and I jokingly asked what they thought the baby would do with the gifts…
without missing a beat, the wise man with the myrrh said,
“I don’t know – my wife told me to take it!”
Well we moved along past Herod,
we passed the angel and the shepherds,
and finally we reached the last scene.
There was a large stable,
with more live sheep and shepherds.
Mary and Joseph were sitting in front of the stable,
and baby Jesus was lying in the manger.
It was a wonderful way to experience the Christmas story…
and the people from Virginia Hills Baptist Church tried to be sure they had everything right:
real animals, real people, and a real stable…!
And it did feel right.
But was it right?
Was it truly authentic?
Most of us probably know that many of the details
in the story we have come to know and love are questionable…
For one, “Was Jesus born in a stable?”
As we look around, most of these beautiful nativity sets here
have something that looks like a stable around it.
Over the years, we have presumed Jesus was born in a stable because Luke says
that he was wrapped in bands of cloth and placed in a manger –
a feeding trough for the animals.
But Luke never actually says the manger was in a stable.
In fact, at the time of Jesus’ birth,
most people didn’t live in houses with barns out back for the animals,
but in caves built into the rock;
and the animals wandered in and around them.
If the good people at Virginia Hills Baptist Church really want to be authentic,
maybe baby Jesus should be in a manger…. deep in a cave!
…But you know what,
I don’t think it really matters….
because it’s less important this Christmas to think of
where Jesus was born 2000 years ago,
than to consider where Jesus would be born today.
Where would – where does God choose to come into the world today?
2000 years ago God chose an unmarried teenager,
from a town no one even had on a map.
Today God still chooses to come to the places
where people are poor, hurting, lonely, or forgotten.
Where is God coming into the world today?
To the places where our hearts are most broken.
So today, maybe it’s in a school in Pakistan…
Or on a street in New York City…
Or on the sidewalk down the road next to the metro station …
2000 years ago Jesus was born in a stable…or in a cave…
Today Jesus is born in the midst of a hurting world.
I think on Christmas Day our greatest hopes and dreams
(aside from a Princess Elsa doll)
…our greatest hopes and dreams are that Jesus would be born in each of us as well.
“Be born in us today”
Do you recognize that phrase?
It’s from the carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
O holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
It’s why we make all those cookies
and do all that shopping
and sit in all that traffic
after all isn’t it?
Despite what cynics think,
I think most of us are searching for something more on Christmas;
we’re longing at the close of the day to feel something like…
well something like Jesus being born in us.
Ebenezer Scrooge experienced Christ’s birth in him…
We too want God to transform us, warm us, challenge us,
we want to be filled with God’s love.
When Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning,
he asks a boy outside ‘what day is it?”
The boy exclaims,
“Why it’s Christmas Day!”
And Scrooge responds,
I haven’t missed it!”
Let’s not miss it this year.
Jesus was born 2000 years ago.
Jesus is born throughout the world.
May Jesus also be born in us today!
Let’s sing the 4th verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – ELW #279.
Be born in us today!