Get a Clue

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The Nativity of the Lord

As we reflect on the great and awesome mystery that stares us in the face this Christmas day, we are oddly comforted by the gentle assurance that goodness will prevail over evil, peace over violence, friendship over discord, joy over sadness, light over darkness. It is an assurance based on the account of eyewitnesses recorded for posterity and handed down to us from generations past. They were simple shepherds who brought news of strange apparitions as they watched their flocks in the fields that night. Unschooled and unsophisticated, they had ultimately nothing to gain from their wild allegations. They reported a vision of choirs of angels lighting up the night sky proclaiming the birth of a child who one day would be king. They did find the child with his parents that night in a humble shed where animals were sheltered. Yet there was really nothing amazing about the scene they came upon, just that it was preceded by a vision of angels. Okay, THAT was mind-blowing. Nobody’s birth had ever been announced like that before, not in their experience anyway. So what was truly amazing was how understated the whole affair was. It seems Whoever was responsible for the roll-out of this project was woefully oblivious of the basic principles of successful marketing—product, price, place, and promotion. Here was the long-awaited Savior of the world, the One alone who possessed power to save the human race from eternal condemnation, born for us a child in a manger in the city of David, and the only people to hear of it were shepherds in a field at night? I don’t get it.

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So here we are, two thousand odd years later, still telling some of the same story, but with an evergreen bush in the living room decked in delicate trinkets and a million tiny lights, sipping eggnog, munching on figgy pudding, while melodious song fills the air, and we await a jolly fat man in a red suit who rides a sleigh one night each year pulled by eight flying reindeer, and who would squeeze down the chimney of every home in the land and spread joy and good cheer, while vaguely reminding children to remember a little baby born in a manger in Bethlehem many years ago. The irony.

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If God has something wonderful to tell us today, and I wholeheartedly believe God does, it all goes back to the message of the angels who appeared to those shepherds in the field that holy night. “This day a Savior is born for you who is Christ and Lord … His name is Emmanuel which means ‘God is with us.’” Perhaps after two thousand years, we fail to see how it is news anymore. We’ve heard it way too many times. Fortunately for us, if we only take the time to ponder the child in that shed asleep in his mother’s arms, it is still cause for much wonder and beauty and awe. Amid the harshness of hunger and poverty, of crime and exploitation, of drug abuse and mental illness, of homelessness and unemployment, of life-threatening disease and senseless tragedy that afflict the human family, amid the loneliness and estrangement and alienation we visit upon one another, amid the darkness and anguish of sin and selfishness we inflict upon ourselves, our God comes as a child. God comes as a child to gently help us recognize the weak and vulnerable among us. God comes as a child to gently remind us that our present trials and struggles need not overwhelm and paralyze us. Our God comes as a child to gently renew our faith in human decency and the promise and hope of second chances. Our God comes as a child in gentleness to tell us we need not walk the journey of life alone. God walks with us. God is in our midst. God is with us. His name is Emmanuel, and he is Christ and Lord.

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So before you take down the Christmas tree and put away the delicate ornaments and twinkling lights, before you revisit Christmas dinner with a feast of leftovers and a side of self-loathing for your holiday over-indulging, before you settle down to pen a few thank you notes and bravely face those dreaded bills, before you stretch out on the couch for some mindless entertainment and post-yuletide stupor, I invite you to take time to sit quietly by the manger and ponder the great and awesome mystery that stares us in the face this holy day. Although the news of war and devastation, of hunger and disease, of selfishness and death will make their way back to the headlines, they have no power over that great and awesome mystery in our midst this day. Goodness will prevail over evil, peace over violence, friendship over discord, joy over sadness, light over darkness. It is indeed good news, and it will all come gently in the stillness of night, amid the clutter of life, as it did that first Christmas in Bethlehem many years ago. We still hear the faint echo of angels proclaiming glad tidings of great joy. In a manger you will find a child … for God is with us.

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Rolo B Castillo © 2013