24. December 2023
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
In the stillness of Bethlehem’s stable, a story unfolds, not of kings in castles but of shepherds in the sheepfold. Outcasts and outsiders beneath the vast vault of the silent heavens witnessed a revelation that insists on being preached to all people through all the ages.
First, consider the shepherds, men hanging from the lowest rung of society, guardians of their grazing flocks, and lonely watchmen in the gloom of the night. In their low estate, where society seldom spares a second glance, an angelic envoy arrives, heralding tidings that transcend our expectations. These humble herdsmen, draped in the dark cloak of obscurity, become recipients of the divine promise.
This ageless message, not whispered in the halls of power but proclaimed to the lowest of the lowly, reveals a divine choice that defies the world’s judgment. God’s emissaries, sent to declare the birth of the Savior, did not descend upon lofty lords but sought out the shepherds, the overlooked and unobtrusive.
And why not? Here in this humble manger, amid the straw-strewn floor, a child is laid—an innocent outsider, far from the fanfare of the crowded city. The lowly status of the stable and the simplicity of the scene underscore the essence of the Incarnation—a God who stoops down to be with us, not in regal robes, but in the guise of a defenseless babe.
Then, there are the Magi, wise wanderers from distant lands, outsiders to the kingdom of Israel, guided by a cosmic compass. They, too, stand as a testament to the divine paradox. Though foreign and far-flung, they are beckoned to the cradle, not by worldly wealth but by God-inspired wisdom that recognizes the significance of the starlit spectacle.
Mary and Joseph, too, bear the badge of outsiders, treading through the world with no room for their arrival. A humble carpenter and his expectant bride, navigating the streets of rejection, find refuge in the stable’s quiet corner. In the world’s eyes, they are of no consequence, yet in the story that God tells, they are key players in the unfolding drama of redemption.
This nativity scene, devoid of earthly grandeur, defies the world’s criteria for significance. It proclaims a divine narrative that elevates the lowly and disregards the world’s barometers of importance. The child in the manger, born to parents of no prestige, establishes a kingdom where value is not measured by worldly acclaim, but by his choosing you to receive his boon and blessing.
The outsiders—shepherds, Magi, Mary, and Joseph—gather around the babe, who cradles all creation in His hands. In the simplicity of this scene, we find a cosmic reversal, where the high stoops low and the low are lifted high. The nativity story, a tale of outsiders invited into the heart of salvation, is spoken of throughout history because it is a divine declaration of love for those the world overlooks and judges unimportant.
So, my brothers and sisters, as we ponder again this mystery, we are invited to also embrace the divine reversal, recognizing that in our lowly estates, we, too, are recipients of the angelic proclamation. The God who chose shepherds on the outskirts and the Magi from distant lands chooses us to partake in His grand narrative of rescue and respite.
In the cradle of obscurity, in the quiet corners of the world, our Savior is born. Born not in the grand halls of prestige but in the periphery, beckoning all, irrespective of status, to gather around the manger and witness the divine drama unfolding.
And so, the shepherds’ simplicity, the Magi’s wisdom, and Mary and Joseph’s humility are retold year after year to inspire us, to fill us with hope, not to lament our lowly status or care whether we are judged as unimportant by those who are not the God-Child.
The birth of our Creator is a timeless testimony that we are valued beyond worldly estimation. For in the outskirts of Bethlehem, a babe is born unto you—a harbinger of hope for the overlooked, a proclamation of love for those deemed of no consequence, the One who lifts you up and seats you with Him in heavenly glory.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin