In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
God created every form of life that swims in the deep, which flies in the sky, and which walks on the land.
God created us, molding us out of the dust of the ground, and breathing God’s holy breath into us. And, God created us in God’s image—that we might bear the Holy Image in all the world.
God spoke to individuals, and God blessed families. God flooded the earth, made a promise never to do that again, and then God made a promise to Abraham and his descendents. God promised to be our God, and to claim us as His own people.
When we were enslaved, God liberated us. When we we without a home, God gave us a land. When our homeland was devastated, he built it up again.
God sent us patriarchs, and matriarchs, and judges, and sages, and prophets, and kings…
Over and over again God inserted Himself into our history, and made His story our story, and our story His story.
But, even with all of those over-and-over-agains, it is hard to shake the in-and-out nature of God’s relationship. God would come—for sure!—but, then He’d seem to go for a while again.
He was always there, but his Presence seemed to come and go with fits-and-starts.
I think that awkward fits-and-starts thing is part of the awkwardness of living on this side of Eden. In Eden God was just there. Right there. Walking with us. Talking with us. When he couldn’t readily find us, He’d go hunting for us.
But, East of Eden things got more complicated.
We spend a lot of time around Christmas bringing ourselves to the manger. We erect manger-scenes in our churches, on our lawns, in our homes. We come together and dress our children as sheep and donkeys, angels and shepherds—to relive the Christmas moment.
But, the shocking thing about the telling of birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, is that the Gospel-authors tell us very few details about the birth. And, even the details they do give seem to contradict themselves.
Luke says there was a manger. Matthew says no such thing.
Matthew says there was a star. You wouldn’t know that from Luke.
Luke tells us about shepherds. Matthew tells of Magi from the east.
And, both Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was born, and then move on to the next scene with very little pomp and circumstance. We get no details of labor. No first cry. No first feeding.
Get this…we don’t even hear of the animals that were there. Other than the sheep that the shepherds were watching in their fields by night, there is NO mention of another animal. (Don’t ruin the day of the Christmas Pageant Director with that little detail…)
Why? Because Matthew and Luke’s point isn’t to bring us to the moment of labor. It’s to bring us to Christ.
The details of the Incarnation can be get too Norman-Rockwelled and Hallmarked that we get distracted by the cuteness of the baby.
But, the Incarnation isn’t really about babies. It IS about the humble nature of Jesus’ coming—but even more it’s about God coming into human/ cosmic history once and for all.
No more fits-and-starts. No more coming-and-going.
God’s great love affair with us is consummated in that moment, and the Gospel authors want us to follow along to the next step.
Immediately after telling us that Jesus was born, Matthew tells us that Magi come to Jesus, following a star.
Immediately after telling us that Jesus was born, Luke tells us that shepherds come to Jesus, following the invitation from the angels.
Immediately after celebrating the moment that Jesus is born, Matthew and Luke want us to come to Jesus—whether by star, angel, sermon, carol, candle, card, gift, or whatever.