Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20
Most stories we hear have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story of salvation began through the people of Israel who walked with God, sometimes closely following God’s call to right relationships. Often times though this people chose their own way and through those choices, they found themselves in dire straits. Nonetheless, God continued to call them back home. Through this chosen people, God revealed God’s love and presence acting in the world. Through them God chose to show all creation his humble, self-giving, and life-giving grace. Through them God chose to enter into time and space with us, as one of us, making that love real and tangible for us through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God entered that story not through a seat of power, but through the lives of a young couple gripped in a controversial circumstance of life. We all have heard the story of Mary and Joseph and their unexpected joyous surprise family addition. We also know the story of the great Emperor, who demanded a census of his kingdom, and how in the backdrop of that power play, the Baby Jesus was born in a manger. We know about the shepherds, the star, the animals, and the visitation of the Maggi. However, do we know in our hearts, can we wrap our heads around the fact that the story we tell today stands as the pivot point in time where everything changed?
Everything changed in the middle of the story. With the birth, ministry, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of God in Christ Jesus, love’s dominion overcame pain, suffering, injustice, indignity, and even death. Love’s sovereignty came not through manipulation and coercion, but through humility, self-giving, and loving of neighbor. In the truth of God in Christ, we are transformed and the Kingdom of God begins to emerge in the world. When love undermines power, everything changes, and yes, everything has changed through God’s act of love toward us.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Ephesus, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” My sisters and brothers, we cannot do anything to earn, coerce, assert power, or manipulate, in order to attain this gift of grace.” We must humbly, with open arms receive it. Paul reminded Titus of this, when he wrote, “He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” In the middle of the story of salvation, God changed everything and yet, there is so much more of the tale to be written.
So, what might the end of the narrative of salvation look like? We know it took an incredible turn in Bethlehem when the angels decried, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Everything changed with the promise, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” That same story will continue every single day of our lives, and the Good News to come will be told by us. Like that humble child sleeping in the feed trough, we can humbly and with grace, strive to be Good News for others.
So, the end of the story is yet to come and yet, we have the promises of God that we have a part in that story. Just remember, through us, God reveals God’s love and presence acting in the world. Through us God shows all creation his humble, self-giving, and life-giving grace. Through us God chooses to make God’s love real and tangible for all the world. We are still a part of the story and as a matter of fact, the Joy to the World we find in the Christmas story, will be found in our own stories and how we choose to share with others, the promises that God’s love never ends. We through our actions of loving neighbor and loving God, through our work to end poverty, injustice, indignity, and human tragedy, and through our lives giving glory to God, we become the storytellers of Good News, in the latter chapters of God’s story of salvation. So, for that hope, for that joy, for that peace, for that love, and for that renewed mission, on this day we give “Glory to God in the highest.”