+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +
Text: Luke 2:11
Theme: Grace Embodied
Dear Travelers to the Manger,
The Holy Spirit teaches us- through the Scriptures- to discern between unfortunate circumstances and divine intentions. Christ was fit for a palace but was housed as a peasant. These were not unfortunate circumstances but divine intentions. God descended in humility. He did not come to make a performance; a presentation to amuse the masses. He was not an actor taking temporarily to the stage of human existence. He came to live among sinners as one of them; as one of us.
It’s the holy season of Christmas. Love and purity and beauty come to the fore. But we’re sinners still the same. How would we have fared on that first Christmas Eve? When Mary was in labour pains who came to help her? When Christ lay unidentified in the manger who came to serve Him? Who came to assist His parents with the birth? When He was revealed to be the Son of God how many came immediately to bend the knee? A few shepherds? A band of mysterious Magi? Where were the priests? Where were the high officials?
How do we fare today as we seek to be witnesses to God’s truth? Your neighbour may live in a material castle, but a spiritual manger. Who needs more attention from you? The one who lives in affluence of possessions and reputation but in hollowness of soul; or the one who lives in modesty of reputation but holds dear the treasures of God?
The event of Bethlehem teaches us the true value of things.
Dear friends, it appears to some that the whole plan of salvation was terribly inefficient. Could the Almighty God not have stood far off in the heavens and with a single decree restored the fallen creation? The story goes that Henry Ford once hired an efficiency expert to evaluate his company. After a few weeks, the expert made his report. It was highly favorable except for one thing. "It's that man down the hall," said the expert. "Every time I go by his office he's just sitting there with his feet on his deck. He's wasting your money." "That man," replied Mr. Ford, "once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now."
At Christmas God had more than idea. He had an outburst of His passion. He had an eruption of His zeal. He enacted the dynamic of His love. He embodied the purity of His grace. That resulted in His feet being firmly planted on the ground and then His arms being securely fastened to a cross. He walked among His own. He lived for us. He died for us.
In this child we have all things. He reveals the Father. He summons the Spirit. He rebukes Satan. He disarms hell. He throws open heaven. Truth is a gift. Hope is a gift. Love is a gift. Peace is a gift. Gifts cannot be earned. They can only be received. If it is due as a wage, a repayment, or an obligation it is no longer a gift.
The ChristChild brings all these gifts. And we do not possess them in abstraction. He baptizes His chosen ones in the font of forgiveness. He dines with His cherished ones at His holy table. Presently we do possess His gifts in faith. One day; directly. Now; in shadows. Then; in brilliance. Now; in hope. Then; in fulfillment. Now; in weakness. Then; in glory. Now; in briefness. Then; in permanence. Our experience will be transformed but our current possession is no less certain.
In the manager is the embodiment of grace. Behind the manger stand the shadow of the cross and the bright rays of Easter dawn. Unfortunately circumstances cast a negative light on shepherds. Do not be afraid to be identified with them. Their protégé stooped to the lowliest task of all before He was exalted to the highest place. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.
A child delivered in a feeding trough for animals is a story fitting for the police news section of the local paper- a most unfortunate circumstance to human eyes. In reality, it’s His divine intention. The captivation of Christmas is not the presents under the tree, but His presence with you and me. The vitality of Christmas is not in the pace of the race, but the stability of His embrace. The value in Christmas is not what we’ve spent, but what He’s given. In His most holy name, Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
24 December 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt