Sunday, December 23, 2007

My take on the Nativity Story

Woolen Nativity Scene

I was asked by Bobbito to present my take on the Nativity Story to the older kids in the Sunday School... This is what I said (or at least had written down to say... I ad-lib'd a bit too) ::
“The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood”

When Jesus was born on this Earth... God (His Father) turned the world upside down.

1) The perfect people to raise Jesus

His mother was a young girl and a virgin... not a Queen, married to the King. She was poor, common, ordinary and yet she was chosen by God to be the mother of His Son. Mary is called “blessed” because of her faith and her willingness to risk her life and lose her position in her society.

His earthly father was a righteous man... who was prepared to quietly divorce Mary and not make a fuss when he heard of Mary’s pregnancy. He too had faith to believe that this was God’s plan and was prepared to risk his reputation... his credibility for Mary and for God.

In the world Jesus was born into... reputation was everything > people tried to live “holy” lives... it was part and parcel of their religion. Both Mary and Joseph were prepared to give up their reputation and accept the accusations of the people... to please God.

In the eyes of the world... these would be the wrong people > poor and accused of sin... and yet, in the eyes of God, these were the perfect people to raise Jesus.

2) The perfect place to give birth to Jesus

Think too on the birth itself... a stable. Kings don’t get born in stables. They get born in Palaces or Private Hospitals... not in the place where animals lived. Mary had a dirty floor to give birth upon... not a clean bed... and she had no one to help her except her Husband. Cold... damp... awkward... uncomfortable... giving birth is not a nice experience but it was made worse by the surroundings.

But the location is significant... Jews have a thing for cleanliness and being born in the stable would have meant Jesus was “unclean” in the religious terms of the day. Here was the Son of God... the very creator of the world as well as the instigator of the Law the Jews followed... classified as unclean.

When Jesus was born into “our neighbourhood” He became human like us and He suffered at the hands of the religious leaders > who focussed on the outside... on appearances... rather than looking to a person’s heart and their actions. Jesus was born without sin... He lived and died without sin... even though He was surrounded by sin and partied with sinful people > Jesus came into this world to heal the sick and do so without condemnation.

In the eyes of His people and their religion... this was the wrong place to be born... and yet, in the eyes of God, this was the perfect place.

3) The perfect people to tell the good news

Who were the first people to hear the good news of Jesus birth? Shepherds. Outcasts of society... ritually unclean... spending considerable amounts of time alone with their animals... living out in the fields rather than in the towns and villages. Shepherd were people whom the religious elite shunned and not the sort of people entrusted with Royal proclamations...

Even so... God’s angels told the shepherds first. This was, in a way, to show that Jesus was born for everyone... even the lowest in society. It was also a good way to spread the message > Shepherds were good messengers... people would speak to them... share with them as they travelled from one village through the shepherd’s fields to their destination.

In the eyes of the world... shepherds were not the most suited people to proclaim the good news of the birth of Jesus... but in the eyes of God they were perfectly suitable.

4) The perfect people to worship Jesus

The three wise men... Kings to some people... were “magi” which is the root word of “magic” and “magician”. They were from the East... most likely from Babylon / Persia (think of Iran & Iraq) and were well read in the Jewish prophesies. This does not mean they were Jewish > they followed a “star” to Bethlehem. A star discovered using a cross between astrology and astronomy.

The first people to worship Jesus were not the religious Jews but people outside the Jewish religion, people and community. Outsiders. Different. Not us. It amazes me to think how we so readily accept the Magi and overlook the fact they were of a different people, community and religious background.

This emphasises the very nature of Jesus’ birth > He came for ALL men... not just the Jewish people. This is a big deal... huge! God shattered the exclusivity of the Jews and opened up His grace and mercy, through Jesus, to everyone. What was exclusive became inclusive > Jesus was and is for everyone... regardless of background, culture and religion.

In the eyes of the world... the magi were not the most suited to greet the new born King – it should have been the religious elite who were meant to have been expecting Him > but in the eyes of God they were perfect because they represented the inclusive... for everyone... nature of God’s good news.

When Jesus came to this world, He turned the world upside down – no longer was God a deity that was distant... but He was us. He lived here on earth. Saw what we saw... did what we do... and the events surrounding His birth show us the greatest truth > He came for everyone... not some small section of humanity but everyone.
That's me take on the story... what to you think? What do you take from the story? What new truth do you see in this old story?
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