Reflections on Christmas
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations
will call me blessed;
For he who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts,
He has put down the might from their thrones,
And exalted those of low degree;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his posterity forever.
(Luke 1:46-55 RSV)
At this time of year, many important people come on the scene in Luke’s version of the Christmas story. The archangel Gabriel, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Simeon all make appearances as Luke masterfully weaves a story, which has captivated so many, that when one has heard it he or she can no longer look at Christmas in quite the same way again.
Miracles burst forth from the story with an archangel who brings important news to share with every day people, who, through faith do extraordinary things. Elizabeth, who has been unable to conceive and bear a child, does so. Mary, whose own encounter with Gabriel, and whose announcement that she will bear the Christ child, leaves all of us breathless. And, all of this takes place in a small corner of the old Roman Empire, as magi ride from the East, following a star, to guide them to the Holy Child.
Though Jesus is undoubtedly center stage at Christmas, Mary, His mother, through her amazing faith in God, makes it possible for the Savior to be born. She says, “yes” to God’s choosing of her to bear His Son, and in so doing, sets an incredible example of willingness to do the will of God, even though it will not only put her at risk in the eyes of the community (being with child—out of wedlock), and will put her at risk, also, when Herod the Great, the King of Israel, hears the news of the birth of the infant King of Israel (Jesus), and sends soldiers to slaughter all of the male children two years of age and younger in Bethlehem.
The risks taken by Mary and Joseph, as they make the long trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot and by donkey, speak of their courage and determination to see God’s plan through. Though Joseph’s role in the story of Jesus’ birth is not as great as Mary’s, he too, risked reputation, in order to help the birth of God’s Son become reality. In Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream not to back out of his marriage to Mary. And being a faithful man, faithful to God, and faithful to Mary, he takes the angel’s advice.
As Christmas 2004 approaches and the beginning of 2005 comes to pass, it would be worthwhile for all of us who bear the name “Christian” to pray about what we might be willing to put up with and what risks we might take for the faith we hold dear. Though it has become too common in many congregations for followers of Jesus to remain silent about their faith, we can do so no longer. It is becoming more and more apparent, that in these times, which some are saying, as many have said before, are the “last days,” before the return of Christ, that there are issues, which need to be addressed. Though abortion has become a very common concern for many in the Christian church, there are many other issues, which are just as vital. The taking of life, whether innocent life in the womb, or the taking of life due to indifference to other’s plights, i.e., poverty, addictions: such as gambling, tobacco, abuse of alcohol and the use of other drugs, along with our propensity to use violence as a means to solve problems in the home, or nationally and internationally, must be held up alongside the gospel in order to determine what Jesus would truly have us do. It will take more than the courage to simply wear bracelets, which say, W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) for our faith to carry the day. It will require men and women who are committed to the same Kingdom Mary sang about in the Magnificat.
As Christmas 2004 comes to pass, my prayer this year, as in every year, is that many will come to “Know Christ—and Make Him Known.”
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