Contrasts and the Unexpected - Christmas Eve
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 2:1-20
December 24, 2020

As we hear the Christmas story we hear the announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds by the angel: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2: 10-13 ESV).

This is a wonderful announcement. It also presents contrasts and the unexpected.

The angel speaks of Christ as the Lord. Yet, He is a little baby. Lord is power. Baby is vulnerability and utter dependence.

His bed was a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. The manger was a feeding trough for animals. It was located where the domestic animals were kept. The inn was the place for humans. It was warm and comfortable.

How different angels and shepherds were. The angels reside in heaven and in glory. The shepherds are of earth, diligently going about their jobs, where there does not seem to be much glory.

One moment the shepherds are looking up at the star-filled sky, which they were used to looking at. The next, the sky is filled with the heavenly hosts.

One moment, there is the stillness and quiet of the night, except maybe for the occasional coyote howling or sheep baying. The next, there is a choir of angels filling the night with songs of praise and thanksgiving to God and glad tidings from God to us humans.

In these contrasts we find the unexpected. It is unexpected to find Christ the Lord lying in a feeding trough, there being no room in the inn. It is unexpected for shepherds to be spoken to by angels. It is unexpected for the night to be filled for the shepherds with a choir of heavenly hosts. Yet, there it is.

So what may we see in these things? We can see that as the Lord Jesus Christ was born as Savior, things for Him moved from glory and power to humility, to a participation and walking with us. He is Lord, Lord of glory, Lord of all those heavenly hosts that suddenly appeared and sang His praises. Yet, He comes as a baby, vulnerable. His first bed was a manger. His birth was announced to shepherds, not the high and mighty.

So He comes in the difficulty and hardship His parents were experiencing. They had to travel unexpectedly, not because they wanted to. They also had to do this while Mary was pregnant. They could find no place for shelter but the stall, where the domestic animals were kept. It was time for Mary to deliver. Was there fear? Was there anxiety, for both of them? There undoubtedly was. Was there faith? Yes, there was faith, because they had God’s word.

So Jesus having a manger for His first bed means that the Lord comes to walk with us in the difficulty and hardship we experience. Because the Lord’s first bed was a manger, Immanuel means that God is with you when you are looking for the inn, but the only thing available seems to be the manger. Of course, God is with you always in Jesus as His Name is Immanuel.

But then we can also see that as things move from glory to humility for Christ the Lord as our Savior, He finds us in our humility to lead us on to His glory. So in Him, things for us are moving from our humility to His glory.

So He comes to find us in our falling short of the glory God, so we could participate in His fulfilling the glory of God for us. He finds us as sinners, but makes us holy in His sight in His forgiveness and love. He finds us ignorant of God and gives us true knowledge. He finds us mortal, but He will raise us up in immortality. He participates with us, in our humility, so we can participate with Him, in His glory.

 Still, there is this. As the shepherds looked at that little baby, having been told He was Lord, the baby’s Lordship was not apparent, but hidden, but nonetheless real. So with us, the glory to which we are being led by Christ, whose first bed was a manger, may not seem so apparent now, as we are still sinners, and struggle, and are mortal; our lives are hidden in Christ. But though our glory in Him may be hidden, it is nonetheless real, because we have Him, and because we have His word. And His word assures us that the glory in which He is leading us will be made full and complete by Him in the fullness of time and the consummation of all things, which is yet to come.

Until then, we join with the heavenly choirs in singing: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let heaven and nature sing.” Amen.


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