The Birth Of Jesus
This passage from the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel on the birth of Jesus our Saviour has passed into legend. Its simplicity captures our hearts, as few other texts in the Bible.
Joseph and his wife Mary have been displaced from their home in Nazareth because of a census requirement. It necessitates their moving to their native township, Bethlehem, city of David, from whom Joseph claims descent.
Mary is heavy with child. They arrive late. There is crowding and confusion all around, and no decent accommodation available at any local caravanserai. Finally, place is found in a cave of sorts where animals are stabled, and it is here that Mary gives birth to her first-born Jesus, and lays him in a manger. Yes, Jesus was a “displaced person” from the very first moment of his birth.
It is the poor who receive the “good news” of salvation first of all. These are the shepherds, keeping the night watch over their flocks on the hills around Bethlehem. Shepherds were generally considered vagrants, but another tradition also sees them as the innocent ones to whom divinity reveals itself. In this case, the angel of the Lord announces the birth of the messiah, and encourages the shepherds to go and visit. Three significant titles are given to the infant Jesus: saviour, anointed, lord. They are titles of Jesus rich in meaning in the early Church.
The “glory of the Lord” shone around the shepherds. In the Bible, this phrase is associated with the great redeeming acts of God. God’s actions bring him glory, and the birth of his Son is his greatest saving action.
The angels proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of goodwill”. It’s not that our goodwill bring us peace, but rather it’s God’s antecedent love for us which
brings us peace and blessings.
There it is, so simply told by Luke. And yet, we know, the birth of this Christ Child changed the world. The birth of the poor man’s child is still a sign that God has not given up on this world.
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