‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
- Revelation 21:3-4
The angels sang to the shepherds, "Go! Now! Run to Bethlehem to see the child who will change everything!" And a star led wise astrologers from distant lands. The Gospel stories tell us that the first witnesses to God's arrival in our world were not the religious authorities. They were not those in power. Some were poor, humble shepherds who just happened to be around. And others were foreigners who we might perceive as having no right to be invited in the first place. The shepherds' invitation was a light that blinded their eyes -- they couldn't deny it. The Magi's invitation was a star they had never seen before -- something you'd have to be paying attention to notice.
If we were able to choose the first witnesses to the Incarnation -- the arrival of God enfleshed -- whom would we invite? Who are today's shepherds? Perhaps they're a group of day laborers waiting around for the next job, hoping for at least a meager paycheck today. Who are today's Magi? Perhaps they're people with no credentials in Christianity, following a belief system we would find kooky, but as a result, looking in places it would never occur to us to look.
The arrival of the Messiah is hidden. It's unexpected. We cannot predict when or how Christ arrives. And when Christ comes among us, we can no longer be at the center of our lives. Everything shifts. We find ourselves with priorities we didn’t have before. Our emptiness is filled, not with our own needs, but with those of others. We worry less about protecting our own interests and live instead with God's interests in mind.
I’ve heard it said that whenever you draw a line in the sand, you can bet Jesus is on the other side of it. Here’s Jackson Browne to remind us of that: “The Rebel Jesus.”
Merry Christmas. May Christ be born in you and in me and in all of us this and every year!