Dear friends in Christ, I bring you good news of great joy… for you, and for all people— Christ is born today!
I wonder what I would have heard had I been in Bethlehem that night. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing, or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night, or simply two poor, tired travelers? Would I have felt the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind? Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel— God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening simply have passed me by?
I’m convinced that if two people had been there that night in Bethlehem, it’s quite possible they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. That’s because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in a way that forces us to believe. We’re always left with an option, because that is God’s way. One person can say “It’s a miracle,” while another calls it “just a coincidence.”
God knew that it wouldn’t be easy for us to believe. Sometimes our days are dark and difficult. Sometimes things happen to us that are unfair, painful, frightening. So God decided to do something about it. God got personally, intimately involved with our situation.
But when God decided to get personally involved, God didn’t come to punish, or frighten, or scold, or threaten us. Instead, God came to tell us that we are loved— loved deeply, truly, and forever.
So God came from heaven and took on our human form to show us just how much God loves us. And just to make sure we got the point that his love doesn’t depend on how good or loveable we are, God first brought that message to people the world didn’t consider important or loved: no-account shepherds, an unwed teenage mom, and astrologers who practiced a whole different religion. Through all of this, God showed us that he wasn’t going to leave anyone behind… that God’s message of love was for all. As in everyone, whether the world thought they were important, or lovable… or not.
And that’s still the way it is. God loves all of us— maybe especially those who don’t feel loved or lovable, those who feel like they’re on the outside looking in, those who feel forgotten, and those who wonder what the point of life is. This “good news of great joy” is that God loves all of us!
Two words from the angels’ song really capture the heart of the Christian message of Christmas— “for you.” What’s most important isn’t just that Jesus is born, but… as the angels say, “Jesus is born for you.” This is “good news of great joy for you and all people.” Because this good news is a very personal gift— given by God for you in our Lord Jesus— because YOU are worthy of God’s never-ending love.
As Augustine said long ago, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Thanks be to God for the true gifts of Christmas— our Lord Jesus, and God’s never-ending love given this night… for you