“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
The joys of Christmas are always wrapped in a bundle of mystery. It is a gift continually giving renewal and hope in a quintessential manner. No matter how old we are, Christmas always makes us feel like children. This feeling goes deeper than our memories of childhood and breathes a fresh renewal of hopefulness and joy. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the world was hoping and praying for God to act to save humanity from the abyss of poverty, depravity and betrayal by its leaders. Yet, even when Christ did break into the world, it was not as the world expected or wanted.
Generally, our perception or point of view of the Christmas story is shaped for us through the lens of old traditions. It has become a magical story filled with wonder and love; angels fill the sky, kings come to Bethlehem bearing gifts, and shepherds stand in amazement as the Baby Jesus smiles at them. It was this story my parents read to me, and I have read the same story to my children. Many times in the past, I have told you this sweet story is filled with contradictions, adult situations and danger. But, how we understand the Christmas story in an adult way, and how we can come to better understand the deeper meanings of Christmas, depends on accepting varying points of view and understanding differences in the variables or parameters of our own individual Christmas stories. This understanding will provide an opportunity for us a to look through a lens which will broaden the effects this story should have on us as Christians. In other words, Christmas is big enough to hold together all of our individual stories and traditions. The Christmas table can accept sorrel, ginger beer, jug, colored greens, joloff rice and chin chin and a good Jamaican rum cake.
In sociological research the term changing the variable is often used to explain how one can move from assumptions to a different conclusion when the information or the assumptions change. A simplistic explanation is if one can change one of the assumptions in any given scenario then the outcome can be remarkably different. It is Zara being excited to share, “60 minutes makes an hour!”, and Adia responding, “But sixty pennies do not make a dollar”. So, the Christmas story is built around God doing the unexpected. God through Jesus changed the variables in cultural and religious scenarios thus providing a different outcome; A young teen age Jewish peasant girl became the God bearer; an old unknown carpenter became the God/child father. Discarded male souls became the news bearers directed by angelic voices. Christianity at its very heart is a bold statement which declares God is God and all will be whatever He/She declares.
There are only a few important characters in our Christmas Story; The three traveling Kings are among them. These three travelers who followed a star across the sky, may have been considered kings because of their wealth, but they were most definitely men who were driven by a quest for knowledge and enlightenment. They studied the sky for changes in the formation of stars and planets or for new stars where only darkness may have been before. Perhaps these men were learned astronomers and were simply studying a new star and how this particular star traveled through the night sky. Additionally, perhaps these men had invested many years of study seeking the expression of a promise made by God hundreds of years before. And, they had prayed and hoped this promise would become tangible within their lifetime; when they had the health and strength to embrace its fulfillment. They came together bounded by time, history and knowledge and followed the star for a long time.
Humanity links power with wealth and rank. Eventually the star led them into the very heart of one of the most powerful places at that time and they stopped at a palace of a king, the very seat of human power. But the star kept moving. That is the change in the variable that I speak of, my friends. For sometimes when we stop based upon our own assumptions of might, right wealth and power, God keeps moving. When these three learned men realized the star had moved on, they left the comforts of the palace and continued to follow the star to the actual location of Jesus’ birth. They had to go chasing to catch up with the star. While they are playing catch up, the angels were singing to the shepherds in the bush. They almost missed it because of false assumptions. They took their eyes off of the star and went seeking for human wisdom, and almost lost all their life time of hopes and dreams.
What did they think when they realized the true nature of their star and the true nature of the baby on which their star shone? Were they disappointed? Were they confused? Or were they filled with hope, as the sheep herders were, as the town’s people were? As we should be?
You see, my friends, humanity tends to stop when our variables or parameters are met. Following the dogma of a religion can hobble the most conscientious church goer. Human relationships fail when we think we have learned all we can from one another. A government falls when it chooses to believe there is nothing left to be done. So, it begins to close its doors and become inward looking. Churches] die when they close their doors to those most in need. When we believe there is nothing else to expect, to motivate us, to challenge us, we will fall into despair and into decay and chant the mantra “ we’ve got to learn to live with what we can’t rise above”. But, when we chose to rise above, and when we do rise above, like the learned astronomers, we become Wise Men. Our eyes will be opened to all the love God offers and all God wants for us.
It is faith, my friends, which keeps us moving forward while we look for something more, something bigger something deeper.
Love came down on Christmas day, my friends, to capture the human heart. It is a love which cannot be resisted yet enfolds us. It is a love which cannot be captured but captivates us. It cannot be owned but can be shared. It’s a mystery like the moving star you may follow but never lead, because ultimately, it leads us to Christ Jesus. It is that love which we shine forth in us making Christ visible in each other. God’s love changed the trajectory of the world forever -That’s the Christmas story!