LOVE. Advent 4. Tomorrow is Christmas and today we read Luke’s version, the most well known version, of Christ’s birth. Let’s look for love in that story. Luke starts with social markers to verify the story historically. —Caesar Augustus has issued his first decree for a universal census and everyone must go to his or her family seat to register. No love or concern in those governmental decrees. My heart doubts that government decrees about masking, voting recounts, or vaccinations truly involve any concern for me, even if I do get a stimulus check.
—Joseph and his pregnant “pledged” wife travel together to Bethlehem, the home of David. Hard tasks draw us together but to call this “love” would not meet Hollywood standards.
—Mary bears the baby in a stable. I’m still not feeling the love in the story.
So ends the first nine verses of chapter 2 of Luke. I would need a lot of poetic license to create a love story!
Chapter 2 verses 8 to 20, though, burst forth in great detail and conversation and action. This part of the Christmas story seems to have caught Luke’s literary attention and has been recorded for history. A choir of angels visits a group of shepherds — the unnoticed, unimportant, not worth mentioning. A single angel visited Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph. A choir signed up or was sent to carry this message! And what was the message they carried? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom is favor rests.” (Today we would say “on people” to be inclusive but the meaning is still clear.) A huge emotional response, love, is generated to God by this birth and God in return loves, favors people. That sounds like a love relationship to me! Not a census, not a long journey pregnant, and not a stable. This birth is the start of an unfolding love story between God and his creation – including angels, stars, shepherds, wiremen, Joseph, Mary, the animals and all who believe!
Like those shepherds who were caught between the harsh realities of their lives and the angel choir, we are caught between the harsh realities of our news about our world and the message of the choir. God favors,” God loves us and is acting even though it may not be obvious. Many will prepare to go to Christmas Eve services tonight. We will enjoy the music. We will smile at the little children doing their parts. Or maybe we will turn on the radio or stream or tune in by zoom to our favored congregation. We will form a “socially distanced” choir but that does not diminish our praise or God’s favor on us. Our gifts will be opened and appreciated to some degree and most will find some way to socialize. But the real “love story” here is between God and his creation – YOU! May you rest in that truth tonight because that is true truth. You are favored!