In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. –Luke 2:1-20
How often we yearn for, plan for, and think we are preparing for “the perfect Christmas.” At the beginning of Advent, we might consider this possible. When we arrive at Christmas, we realize there is no such thing. Christmas is not for the perfect—person, family, home, congregation. Indeed, Christ was born for us in all our imperfection!
The Christmas Gospel proclaims that God humbled himself to become human, with all that means. The Christmas message is that God chose to become incarnate, to take on human flesh and blood—to bless our imperfect world with His own perfect presence. And in so doing, our imperfection was, and is, blessed.
Our smelly stables—our unpleasant surroundings, our trials and difficulties in life, our ill-timed pregnancies and births—are blessed by God’s own presence. So that we see imperfection in life not as bad or wrong, but as blessed—blessed by God and blessed with His presence. Because if God would choose to be conceived in an unwed mother, born in a barn as a flesh-and-blood human being, what wouldn’t God do for any of us the world looks upon as unfortunate and imperfect?
God became human in Jesus for people like us! Like us in all our imperfection, in all our failures and foibles, in all our tragic human-ness. And God says, “I will be one with you! I will be ‘God with you’—Emmanuel!
I pray that you will cling every day to his promise, “Lo, I am with you always…” May His presence in Word and Sacrament bless you day by day and strengthen you moment by moment! Merry Christmas!
Lord God, we give you thanks and praise for being God with us, in Jesus. Be our strength and our salvation in the year to come! Amen.
Prepared by David Wendel, North American Lutheran Church