I read this morning Luke chapter 1 and 2 the Story of Jesus’s birth. What we refer to as the “ChristmasStory.” How God in his entirety and all his glory left his heavenly realm far from us, descended to the earth and in the babe Jesus, became Emmanuel, God with us. In the incarnation God took on completely human form and became like one of us. In this Christmas Story we see how God changed everything of how we are able to access Him, relate to Him and most importantly, imitate him. Before Jesus was born we had no tangible example of what God was like or how we were to follow him. Because we had no one to “follow.” What mankind had was a Temple form of worship, in which only a few elite priests could access the Holy of Holies and be in God’s presence. It was as very religious, legalistic, and distinguished form of encountering God. With this story God forever changed that. God changed encountering him to a very personal, simple level.
In the story we just read we see that God chose Mary to be the mother Jesus. She was not distinguished at all. She was not of royalty, or the daughter of a high priest or a rich respected landowner. She was a poor, nameless 15-18 year old girl.
Her husband Joseph likewise was not who you would think would be the earthly father of the Son of God. He was not a King, or ruler, or a respected religious Clergy. Nor was he wealthy, owning much life stock and riches like the patriarchs of his faith Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. He was a poor carpenter. Who for the trip to Bethlehem could only afford one donkey for his wife to ride and had to walk the whole trip beside her.
The place Jesus was born was not distinguished or religious at all. The Son of God was not born in the Temple, or a palace, or even a nice home in a warm bed. But on straw in a manger among the animals.
When Jesus was born, who did the Angels and the company of heaven go and announce it to? To Rome and the Emperor? To Jerusalem and King Herod or in the Temple to the high Priests? No, to poor, common shepherds.
This whole story of Jesus’ birth, the beginning of Christianity, and the Christmas story is one of meager, common, humble, un religious beginnings. Jesus’ story ended the same way. After he is raised from the dead, who is the first people to see him? Women. Not to take offense with the women here today, but back then women did not count, literally.
Jesus told the women to tell the men to meet him in Galilee which is approximately 60 miles from Jerusalem. Jesus was saying it is not about Jerusalem any more, his church was about him, and a deep, intimate personal relationship with him. He wanted a personal relationship with us at our level. But we, human kind did not, and do not like this. Even though all of mankind has read this story we just read, that God became incarnate in man in the most humble, intimate, and personal way. We are uncomfortable with it. We still in some way do not believe it. That we are ok as we are. That God wants to dwell personally with us. That we are his plan through whom God will restore the world. God can’t just reside in me, in my home. To grasp that God is with us, Emmanuel, was just to simple. God can’t reside in me, he must live in something special.
So what did we do? We built the great cathedrals of St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London, and Notre Dame in Paris. Great halls ornate with gold and art work. We built temples again! Churches with carved altars, stain glass windows and gold and silver chalices. We did what is the exact opposite of what this story in the Bible tell’s us to do. We re-built the same thing that Jesus had his disciples walk three days away from. We chose cathedrals over mangers. Cathedrals are the opposite of a manger. They suggest the opposite of the incarnation, that God is made flesh among us, and that God is present in our ordinary lives. They proclaim God resides here and we must go to them to find God.
The church prefers seeing God in a gold box on an altar than a panhandler on a street. However, that is not the story of Christmas.
Read Luke chapters 1 and 2; Matthew 1:18-2:12, 28:7-10,16-20. Then spend time in prayer. How is how and where you seek and encounter Jesus like that of the Christmas story? How is it different?
Please share your reflections and questions as a comment below.