From the Scripture according to Luke…
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed [a]wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a [b]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And [c]behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a [d]manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill[e] toward men!”
When Astrid asked me to write a Christmas message this year, I could think of no better way to start it than with the original Christmas Story. There are four versions, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But it’s Luke’s that we remember from our childhood, dressing up like shepherds and angels, and acting out the story.
It’s ironic that such a wonderful story would start with the government placing requirements on the people. Not unusual, since that’s what happens, but ironic. Luke says “registered” but the word we often see in that place is “taxed.” Thirty years later, the babe lying in that manger told his followers to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The beauty of the story above is its timeliness. It hasn’t changed in two millennia. The cynic will say that it is just that, a story. However the more than one billion believers will say that it is the beginning of an understanding. A way to combine infinite love with secular life. We believe. Therefore it is real.
We are told that the story simply couldn’t have happened that way. Why would shepherds be in the field in the middle of winter? Angels and heavenly hosts, oh please. And the rest, stars moving over the place of the birth and three wise men. Give us a break.
I am puzzled as to why it is so difficult to believe. To believe in a supreme being, to believe in someone walking among us spreading the word, to believe that there is something larger than we are, and something to which to aspire.
The Christmas Story is one of love, of trust, of belief, and yes, a bit of magic. We tend to add a sprinkle of the ‘impossible’ to make it something special. But is it really impossible? The wise among us think not. As we believe in virgin births, angels, heavenly hosts, and the like, are we not making the impossible just a tad more possible.
Sure, we secularize the holiday with parties, feasts, and presents, but is that the end of it. I’m reminded of Father Beiderman, a priest from my misspent youth, who when asked about fund raising and the replacement of a perfectly serviceable window with stained glass, he said that it wasn’t the money, or the bake sales, or the window. It was the process. The bringing together of so many people who became closer to each other, and in many ways closer to God. Smart fellow, that priest.
So as we celebrate this year, lets remember not only the food, fun, gifts and parties, but lets also remember the end result, the bringing together of friends and family and then wonder, just a bit, if the little baby in Luke’s story didn’t have more in mind than angels and wise men. Maybe, just maybe, Father Beiderman’s process is what is it all about.
As we remember this wonderful story, as we spend time with friends and family, as we buy presents and think what Tom or Mary would really like, are we not reflecting the peace and love that surrounded that manger so many years ago.
So to all our friends, Christian and Jew, Muslim and Buddhist, Hindu and Atheist, and all the rest, please have the happiest and Merriest Christmas and holiday season.
Your Friends at Parking Today