December 25, 2020; Luke 2:1-14; Christmas
Welcome to COVID Christmas! It’s not the Christmas we want. We want a Christmas where we can gather with family and friends, with hugs and kisses, where we can sing joyous songs without fear. But that is not the Christmas that 2020 has provided. This year our Christmas is difficult, disappointing, and dangerous. But that is nothing new. Christmas was that way from the beginning.
Today I invite you to overhear three conversations that took place over two thousand years ago. All are between Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus. The first of these conversations takes place in Nazareth. “Mary, you better sit down, I have some bad news.” “What is it, Joseph?” “We have to go to Bethlehem.” “Bethlehem? Why would we go to Bethlehem?” “It is the emperor. He wants us to register in our own towns and Bethlehem is mine.” “But Joseph, Bethlehem is ninety miles away! Can we rent a donkey?” “Mary, you know we cannot afford a donkey. We will have to walk.” “Joseph, I am due any day now.” “I know, I know. Honey, we’ll take it slow.”
The second conversation takes place in Bethlehem. “Mary, take a deep breath, I have some bad news.” “Now what? I just need to rest.” “Well, I think we walked too slow. The guest room that I reserved has been taken and we can’t stay there.” “Then where will we stay, Joseph?” “Well. . . if you just look in here…” “Oh no, Joseph, this is a barn. There are animals. It is dirty. It stinks. You want me to have a baby here?” “It’s better than outside in the cold.” “Joseph, I can’t believe this is happening to us.” “I know, Honey, I know. Let me get you some clean hay.”
The third conversation takes place in Bethlehem several weeks later. “Mary, brace yourself, I have more bad news.” “Not again!” “Yes, we need to go to Egypt.” “Egypt? Joseph, that is another forty miles and now we have a baby.” “But the baby is the reason. He is in danger from Herod.” “Then Joseph we have to go at once. But still no donkey?” “No donkey, but Honey, again, we’ll take it slow.”
From the start, Christmas has been difficult, disappointing and dangerous. This is because what we celebrate today is that Jesus became one of us, and the human condition is never perfect. Yet, Jesus was born. Jesus was loved. And Jesus went on to become the Savior of the world.
So before we begin to lament that this is not the Christmas that we want, let’s remember that 2020 has made us a part of a long Christmas tradition. Despite the fact that our Christmas is difficult, disappointing and dangerous, we are here. We are loved. And with God’s grace we will become even better witnesses to Christ in the years ahead. That is worth celebrating.