top of page

Luke 2:1-20

"God’s Love: Birth and Rebirth"

 

Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, who lived from 740 to 680 B.C. E., we read Isaiah prophesying about the Messiah, saying: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

In this spirit, we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the suffering Messiah who rejected the brutal path of obsessive violence, and instead blazed the path of generous self-giving and peaceful loving-kindness to everyone in every time. Author and Pastor Brian McLaren wrote that, “In advent, we celebrate the coming of Christ as the prince of peace. We highlight the bright promise of his coming—good news of great joy for all peoples everywhere (as contrasted) against the dark realities of our world: (which include) competitive religious supremacy (I’m right, and you’re wrong), strident neighbor-less nationalism, and the misguided sense of privilege all flowing from a misguided sense of calling.” McLaren goes on to say that, “Perhaps we (should) re-tradition the advent candles around four titles commonly ascribed to Jesus: 1) Christ—meaning the promised liberator, who frees us from our endless cycles of violence; 2) Lord—the anti-Caesar (and anti-materialist), who brings peace not by shedding the blood of enemies but by offering himself in love; 3) Lamb of God—who comes to put an end to the cycles of scapegoating and sacrifice once and for all; and 4) Word of God—who reveals God’s character as non-violent, kind and reconciling.”

So, why do we come to church? Well, we come, first-of-all, to worship God and follow the command of Jesus to love God and love one another and be in fellowship as a church family. We come to celebrate the all-encompassing love of God for all humanity, starting with the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the widowed, the last, the least, and the lost. We come to place our sins and mistakes at the foot of the cross and renew our commitment to the virtues of peace, trust, truth, mercy, grace, loving-

kindness, and forgiveness, as well as faith, hope, salvation and God’s unconditional love. We then experience the Holy Spirit, which cleanses the temple of our heart, soul, mind and body of all things associated with the Dark Side of life and be renewed and re-generated by our belief in Jesus Christ. We come to fellowship with other Christians and keep from becoming isolated to the point of insanity; because in our world, it’s so easy to become isolated and insane, isn’t it (?): by our own choices; in our personal obsessions, in our addictions to sinful behavior, in our greed and arrogance, in the necessity for isolation and social distancing because of Covid 19, etc: so isolated in fact, that we become a classic definition of insanity, which can be complete isolation from reality, or doing the same thing over and over again in the same way, but always expecting a different outcome. We DON’T come to find justification for the sinful lives that we lead, but we DO come to answer God’s call to us to bring our own sins and broken-ness to Christ Jesus, and share the love, forgiveness, and salvation of God’s grace and mercy to us and others through evangelism. And we “come” to church these days through whatever means possible that allows us to stay safe.

We now live in the part of history that came after the birth of the Messiah, so we know that the Jewish hierarchy was looking for a Messiah who would lead them to a military victory over the Romans. This was because of their past experience with David as a conquering king. But the Jews had apparently forgotten that David was also a man who had started out as a humble musician and a lowly shepherd. And, because Jesus came as a suffering Messiah, He did not fit the mold that the Jewish leadership of that day expected. They wanted their Messiah to be a conquering king, not a suffering servant, and especially not one born into poverty, in a lowly manger, in a barn in Bethlehem. They didn't get that the Romans were a physical representation of what is the ultimate enemy of all of us; that is being enslaved to fear, or even death itself.

In today's scripture, we see that Jesus is born into the most humble of circumstances. Luke's story of the birth of Jesus speaks about the obscurity, the poverty, and even the rejection of the Son of God right from birth, because of the phrase, "there was no place for them in the Inn." The scripture speaks of Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had decreed that all the world should be taxed. Yet, I want to think that God worked in the mind of Caesar Augustus, one of the most powerful men who ever lived, to make sure that all of the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah would be fulfilled, because Bethlehem had been prophesied as the birthplace of the coming Messiah.

The birth of Jesus is the point where we see eternity, space and time, intersect. It’s also the point where we see our beliefs, our faith, and secular

reality intersect; the point where the love of God physically appears. After the birth of Jesus, we see the Angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds in the fields, and announcing His birth, as the gift of salvation to all people, everywhere. We ask, why is this appearance of angels to the shepherds even mentioned in the Bible? Because it was important that the birth of the Messiah be witnessed by an unrelated source; otherwise, the birth of Jesus would have been seen as just another birth, of just another ordinary person.

God chose people rejected by the society of that time, to be the witnesses of the birth of God’s Son. Shepherds of that time were not allowed to own property or testify in court. They were fit only to live out under the stars and to herd sheep. So, it is fitting that at the very beginning of the life of Jesus Christ, that God announces and confirms the birth of the Messiah to the lowest of the low, the shepherds in the fields, working on the night shift. This tells us, that the story of the Christ, from the very beginning, is inclusive of all people, and not exclusive and subjective. So, even if we wanted to build our church around those that we exclude, we could not do so, if we follow God’s example.

It's astonishing to observe how the birth of Jesus was such a supernatural Godly event, that the heavenly celebration of the birth of Jesus spills out of heaven, over and through, even the fabric of space-time. The heavenly hosts suddenly appear, and began singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among people with whom God is pleased!" So much are we to understand that Jesus is the light of the world, that there is a star of light over Bethlehem. So joyful is the arrival of the Son of God that the celebration of His birth in heaven becomes so wild that it spills out and through the fabric of space-time, and angels are seen in real-time by the shepherds, celebrating and singing about the birth of Jesus.

If the birth of Jesus Christ is so radical, so incredible, and so joyous that the celebration of His birth spills out of heaven itself, shouldn't we, as the purpose of this joyful event, celebrate it, too? When we read in Luke how the fabric that separates eternity, space and time was broken open, and that angels spilled out of Heaven singing for joy, I think it would be a good thing for you and I, like the lowly shepherds of Jesus' day, to do more than just take note of the arrival of the Savior. Like the shepherds, who said to each other, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us;" let each of us, also; take hold of the opportunity that the birth of the Son of God provides for us.

Jesus said, "Except you be born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God: Jesus provides for our “Rebirth into New Life!” The birth of Jesus Christ points the way to rebirth for us, too. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd; Jesus IS God’s love, given freely to each of us. The birth of Jesus allows God to tear through the walls of our hearts; kick through the rusty gates that we’ve built around our heart, soul, mind and spirit, to bring love to you and I: to all people, everywhere, and pour into each of us God's unconditional, agape love! This brings life is possible as we experience the birth of Jesus and the rebirth we get when we allow Jesus Christ and the Spirit of the Holy One, into our heart of hearts.

Jesus is the One who will “bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” We are all prisoners in Darkness to something; but Jesus Christ makes it possible for all of us to lay our insanity at the foot of the cross, and claim the light of new life that Jesus Christ brings to us. Like the lowly shepherds on the night shift, who first witnessed and brought proof of the birth of the Messiah to all people everywhere; we claim our re-birth today by saying; Come, Lord Jesus; Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Rev. Jan Ekstedt MDiv.

bottom of page