“While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-20)
After all the build up the moment of actual birth is recorded very simply and quietly. It is as though creation and history hold their breath while Jesus slips into the world. And then angels begin their loud and joyful announcements.
Coming to church on Christmas Day and remembering the Christmas story can be a little like that. It is a moment of quiet observance of the miracle of birth, the miracle of this particular birth, before we break out in joy and celebration. But before we hurry on to the celebrating let us pause and note both the ordinariness and the uniqueness of this long ago birth.
The beautiful simple language without names for any of the characters emphasises the universality of birth. And then the retelling of the story by the angels to the shepherds emphasises the uniqueness of this particular birth.
I am also deeply touched that the Child of God was born of humble folk, of both a royal and a curious line, in the humblest of situations and announced first of all to rough, tough shepherds not to the religious or important.
I am also profoundly touched that the Child of God came when and where God was needed even though there was no room at the inn or readiness for him. God does not wait until we think we are ready.
Thank goodness otherwise some of us would never be quite ready. We would be wanting to tidy up our lives a bit more, sort out a few more of our own problems, or maybe fit a couple of enjoyable sins in before we invited God home for a meal.
Many people do not think themselves worthy of God’s attention. Many people think they need to strive to be fit for God’s company. And yet the message of Christmas is in every way that God comes to us in the ordinariness of human life whether we are ready or not.
There was no room at the inn for Jesus but he came anyway. And that makes all the difference.
Because God became one of us and joined us in our human condition all life has been shot through with the gold of divinity, all life has been declared sacred, all people are worthy of love and respect.
Because the Christ Child came even though there was no room in the inn there is hope for all of us. Life and love can burst in anywhere, anytime in any and all of us.
So this Christmas let us celebrate that long ago God became one of us and that still God comes to us in our particular life. And let us take home the message that God values every life – human and creaturely – and that we are called to live in the confidence of that and also to act accordingly toward others.
When we greet our family – the favourites and the not so favourites – and when we see our neighbours and strangers let us remember that they too are sacred incarnations of God’s love.
Even so, come Lord Jesus the Christ, and be near us we pray.