If God wanted to make an impact on people, then he should have picked a better means of coming to them.
Few even noticed this birth.
Angels had to be sent out to the shepherds just a round up an impromptu audience
Luke is adamant in showing that the rich and powerful are fully detached from the events of God coming.
The Emperor is preoccupied with his Tax plan.
The Governor is busy keeping things peaceful in the local province while floods of refugees make their way to their places of birth.
No, God could hardly have chosen a poorer way to come if God really wanted to capture the attention of the masses!
God should have tried something a bit more spectacular, and we know that God could have. God could be pretty showy back in the day when he wanted to be. Employing Pillars of Cloud and Fire in the desert to lead Israel out of Egypt.
Burning bushes, floods, earthquakes, the sun standing still in the sky, plagues of various kinds, the parting the sea if needed.
Oh, God has a deep pocket of flash and pizazz when it comes to special effects and shows of power, just ask Pharaoh!
But God had tried all of that before, and with varying degrees of success.
The trouble of flash, pizazz, and special effects is it becomes harder and harder to impress to “top” what you did last time, and we are fickle when it comes to being impressed.
What “new thing” can you show me?
What new feature do you have to entice, or inspire?
So maybe in the birth of a baby God is NOT out to make a flashy impact on this world. God is not shaking the world up with fiery displays. Not waltzing in with an outstretched arm and a mighty hand.
Maybe the birth of a baby is meant to do something else.
Maybe God is tapping into what we tend to do when we see a baby, speculate a bit on what this little one will be.
Maybe what God is really doing is keeping a promise.
“To you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds who heard that phrase would have known. “The city of David” is the tip off.
On this day a promise is being kept. A promise spoken to King David so long ago, that God would establish his house and would bring an end to the things that afflict people.
“Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict… I will give you rest from all your enemies.. your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand forever.”
That was the promise given by God to David long ago.
Tonight, a promise is kept, in the birth of the Christ child, an heir to a throne comes. Surely as the shepherds gathered they must have thought of that, and they would have done what we all do when we first see a baby. They would have engaged in a little speculation.
“Just look at his arms, he will be a mighty warrior, a leader, a king for sure!”
“Look at his head. That is the head of a king! See how the crown will fit it. That is a head who will figure out how to deal with these Romans.”
We can guess that the shepherds might have conjectured like that, because that is indeed what many thought the promised child would be.
Everyone expected the heir of David’s throne to be great leader, a king, a warrior… but there is more to this promise born tonight than meets the eye. More here than even the most far-sighted Shepherd, or relative, could imagine. For, born tonight is a promise that is more than David ever dreamed of, more than any of the people of Israel ever hoped for.
Born this night in the city of David is the promise that God will come to be with his people in a way that God has never been with us before… intimately.
It is a baby, just a baby.
And, while we might imagine great things in any birth, this one exceeds our wildest imagination of what God will do, and the lengths to which God will go to in order to reach us.
This baby has come to reach all people, a whole world.
This baby has come to do more than just establish an earthly kingdom or rescue an oppressed people.
This baby has come to bring a promise of everlasting life, salvation, and hope for all. That whoever, whoever; believes in Jesus should not perish, but have eternal life.
And how is it that God chooses to do this?
Not as a military leader.
Not in the garb of the rich or the powerful.
God comes as a baby so that we will do what God has always longed for us to do.
God you see, is out to capture our hearts and imaginations this night, in a way that only a baby can do that.
You see, we will do things for a baby that we won’t do for anyone, or anything else, and God knows that.
We will cradle a baby.
We will stare in wonder at a baby, speculating on what the birth of a baby might mean for us, what they will be when they grow up, what they will see.
We will long to get to know a baby, watch it grow, and look for it in our lives.
We will do silly things for a baby, irrational acts of caring, nurturing, giving of ourselves because their very life depends on us not looking out for our own comforts first.
Babies will make you dive elbow deep into the mess.
Babies will make you rush to protect.
We will love, protect, and make sacrifices for the sake of a baby.
Those are all the things that God has called upon God’s people to do for one another from the very beginning. But adult hearts grow cold, and ideologies grow rigid, and the “bean counters” remind adults of what they can afford, and of what they ought to keep for themselves, and how it’s not really in one’s own best interest to care about other people so much, or to provide for them.
You don’t want to make people “dependent” after all.
But by coming as a baby, God reminds us how we all enter this world naked, cold and alone, with nothing to call own.
We sometimes think more highly of ourselves and our privilege than we should when we forget that. We close out the neighbor, or shirk the call to love and to serve.
Born this night is a promise that is meant for each of us.
When the water was splashed, and the words were spoken, we were joined to this baby and we are now a part of the fullness of his life, and a part of one another.
Born this night is a promise that when this babe grows to break the bread, and to pour the wine, we will have immediate access to God’s very presence in our own lives. Connected to God, and Christ, in mystical union that reminds us we are all in this together, this life and the promised Kingdom.
Born this night is a promise.
In the manger there is a God who is so intent on reaching us that God will become as one of us, if for no other reason than through this action God will remind us of our own mortality and humanity.
God becomes frail, shivering, and fragile, dependent upon those whom he comes to save, so that they might be reminded that they were once dependent on others as well.
God is so ready to reach us that God will give up all the trappings of majesty and heavenly glory so that we might do what God has always longed for us to do… to come to him, to cradle him, to wonder at what God will do to us, what God will be for us, and maybe then remember what we are to be for one another.
Beloved, born to you this night is a promise, Christ Jesus our Lord.
Learn from him.
Love him and learn to love from him, one another.
Hold the Christ Child close as you would hold your own child in your own arms.
It is for you that God has come in this way,
It is for you that he waits with the promises of everlasting life, forgiveness, and healing.
It is for you that Christmas has come.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.