Luke 2:1–14 (15–20) (NRSV)
Chapter 2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. Verse 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Verse 3All went to their own towns to be registered. Verse 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Verse 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Verse 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. Verse 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Verse 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Verse 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Verse 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: Verse 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Verse 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." Verse 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Verse 14"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Verse 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." Verse 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. Verse 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; Verse 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Verse 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Verse 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Surprise! We know this story so well, the hardest part is to hear it with all its surprises, to hear it in its simple beauty and imagery, with its unwitting cast of characters and its heavenly scope. An expectant couple arrives in Bethlehem. Even with no fitting place to stay, their baby is born. Shepherds doing their own thing are suddenly interrupted by the glory of the Lord. Great fear meets a message of hope—the very heart of this story: “For you a Savior has been born, the Messiah, by the glory of God.”
And what’s more, this good news is for you “today,” not in some distant future. The shepherds at least seem to grasp this part, and immediately they are on their way to check it out, to see this “word” (not “thing”) which has come to pass—literally a fulfillment of the angel’s promise that all “words” are possible with God (see also Luke 1:37).
On this eve of Christmas, may we once again hear the promise and join the pilgrimage to Bethlehem to see this good news which is happening among us.
O God of promise, may our ears and hearts once again be open to hear the announcement of the birth of your Son, and join the pilgrimage to honor him with lives that are given to his service. Amen.