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Luke 2:1-7
 
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town 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 registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (ESV)
More Than History
Daniel the Prophet and the Three Young Men
17 December 2015
It is with the joy of anticipation that we approach the feast of the incarnation. The enduringly peaceful story of the Child born of the virgin in Bethlehem is so powerful. It accomplishes great things despite the apparent weakness of the story itself. Who could be impressed by the birth of a peasant child in a no account town in Palestine in the early first century of our era? Yet which of us has been born in a royal palace or has slept on a gilded bed? How beautiful that God's eternal Son was born just as we are, not in the lap of luxury but in the reality of poverty, weakness, and even downright meanness. The external context in which this occurs cannot tell us who it is that is cradled in the arms of little Mary. Only God's Word can tell us that this child is the incarnate Word of God. Thus the feast of the incarnation has very little to offer us apart from a careful and thoughtful study of God's telling of the story itself. There is no knowing the incarnate Word apart from His written Word.
 
Yet the story is full of deep mysteries; not the least of which is that God has exchanged His own blessed Son for poor sinners like us. How could God have so treasure the likes of us that He was willing to exchange his own dearest treasure? Recently, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been in the news again because he is facing a United States military court-martial for desertion to the enemy in Afghanistan. President Obama worked a prisoner exchange with his captors so that he could be repatriated to the United States. Ironically, the deserter was exchanged for five Taliban commanders. With an even greater irony, God also works an unequal exchange; His Son is born as one of us, that we might be re-born as one of His. This is far more unequal than the exchange for Bergdahl. Yet we have deserted the kingdom of our Father and sided with His enemy, aided and abetted his war against our true country, and given comfort in our sins to his fellow combatants. Think, then, how remarkable the exchange really is! How exalted we have become through Christ and through faith in Him! Our ordinary birth becomes His and His exalted birth becomes ours through the rebirth of the font. Everything is made new by the birth of this one Child.
 
If the story of the Christ Child becomes mere history for us, we will miss all of its mysteries. If it is reduced only to the story of an infant born of a peasant girl in the first century, it will not merit being told at all. For the story of millions of those births is told day after day as the world is populated (you can verify this on Facebook!). This Child's birth must be different or it will be of no value to us. We must know who He is. We must know who we are. We must know who we become in Him. Thus Christmas is not a birthday party for Jesus; it is no such thing. It is the story of his incarnation of Mary for us men and for our salvation. If we treat it any other way, we will be treating it as unbelievers do. Instead, let's see ourselves in Him; given our lives back, freed from our enemies, and made sons of God. That's much more than history!

 

Martin Luther

"See to it that you do not find pleasure in the gospel only as a history, because that does not last long. Nor is it only an example, for that does not stick without faith. But see to it that you make this birth your own and trade places, so that you are freed from your birth and receive His. This happens when you believe. So sit in the lap of the Virgin Mary and be her dear child. But you must exercise this faith and ask for it, because while you live you cannot establish it too firmly. This is our foundation and inheritance, in which good works must be built.
 
"If Christ has now thus become your own, you have by such faith become pure through Him and have received your inheritance without any personal merit, only through the love of God who gives the blessing and work of His Son to you as your own, then the example of good works follows, that you will also do for your neighbor as you have seen that Christ has done for you. Here good works are their own teacher. What are the good works of Christ? Is it not true that they are good because they have been done for your benefit, for God's sake, who commanded him to do the works on your behalf? In this, then, Christ was obedient to the Father, in that He loved and served us." 

Martin Luther, "Gospel for Christmas Day," Church Postil, 29-30
 
Prayer
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You have so generously cared for us by the incarnation of Your Son that in and through Him our status in Your sight has changed. We who have been Your enemies are now called Your dear friends; sons in Christ our Lord. Help us to celebrate the festival of His incarnation as our renewal. Amen.
 
For all those grieving their losses at the approach of the Christmas season, that they might be comforted by the Word of God
 
For Marj Stuemke, who is undergoing therapy at M.D. Anderson Hospital, that she might receive healing and strength from her Lord
 
For John Meyer, that he might recover fully from his recent surgery
Art: VOUET, Simon  Annunciation  (1640s)

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