Thursday, December 24, 2015

Born for You

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:1,5

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:8-12

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. 

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace!

Imagine how dark it was at night, in the desert, watching sheep two thousand years before Edison invented the light bulb or 1,700 years before Ben Franklin coined the term battery?  There most certainly was a live fire pit for warmth that night and for some light to watch that the sheep did not wander afar. Temperatures were likely to dip into the 30-40F range in this area with a San Diego-like climate. The sun set around 4:40 pm and would not come back up until 6:30 am Friday leaving more than 14 hours of darkness to illuminate on one of the longest nights of the year.

Is it any wonder in the middle of a cold, dark early winter night, that the appearance of an angel with a message from the Lord would generate fear in these workers raising sheep to yield lambs for an upcoming Passover sacrifice?  And what was the message? 

The belligerent army of the most powerful nation in the world had invaded a small, poor Middle Eastern backwater territory.  The leader of that nation half a world away wanted to survey the spoils of his victory and ordered all people to a census.  No need to search for weapons of mass destruction because they were not yet invented.  Old-fashioned methods of torture like crucifixion remained the coin of the realm striking fear and obedience into the populace.  A trembling poor, engaged couple walked (or rode via donkey – no Uber or Lyft) for more than a week about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in their ancestral home.  When they get there, the hotels were booked.  No Kayak.  No Expedia.  No Air BnB.  No smartphones for toll-free reservations.  No relatives with empty beds.  After all that travelling, no wonder she went into labor.  The pregnant teenager gave birth out-of-wedlock and wrapped her new son in the only blanket handy and lays him in the feeding trough used by the cattle. THIS?  THIS!!  This is the savior that has been born for you who is Christ and Lord???  Yes.  This is the savior that has been born for you who is Christ and Lord!!! Yes! Yes!! YES!!!

William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and JK Rowling could not come up with a more fantastic plot line if they pooled their talents. 

Are you at work today?  You might be if you are in healthcare, hospitality, food service, public safety, the military, farming, ranching and shepherding.  We still have shepherds raising sheep which need to be fed, and cleaned, and exercised, and sheared, and watched over.  If an angel appeared to them tonight, they would probably be as afraid as their counterparts were 2015 years ago. 

Waitresses and waiters today have diners to serve.  Chefs have meals to cook.  Hotel staff have rooms to clean and guests to check in and out of the rooms.  Police have roads to patrol.  Firefighters have…well, fires to fight of course. Social service agencies have homeless to shelter and hungry souls to feed. Ambulance crews have to pick up the pieces of tornadoes which have chain-sawed their jagged path through the American south.

Is it any wonder that the heavenly birth announcement for this Servant-Leader, Wonder-Counselor would go to people who already were at work serving others?  If those angels came today, they probably would not show up at St. Mary of Sorrows or St. Brendan the Navigator or Our Lady of Pity or Belmont Abbey or even St. Peter’s Basilica.  They would probably appear in the break room at a Holiday Inn or behind the Silver Diner where the staff are taking a smoking break.  Or in the bunk room at Fire Station No. 11.  

The message, though, is the same.  The baby is born for you. All he wants is some room in your inn. 

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