This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
- “BC:AD,” by U.A. Fanthorpe
This poem speaks strikingly to me of the way grace enters our world: without fanfare, unexpectedly, in the least likely of places, at the least likely of times. Most of all, grace comes to us unmerited. That is to say, we never “deserve” it, but instead it comes as pure gift. This seems to me the real heart of the Christmas message: the true “meaning of Christmas,” if you will.
Jesus - the very Word of God incarnate, love itself – comes first of all as a weak and helpless baby. He comes to a peasant couple in out-of-the-way Galilee during the reign of Caesar Augustus. He is born among livestock. His birth is announced by angels to “farm workers” (shepherds) and heralded by members of an “obscure Persian sect” (the Magi, Zoroastrian by confession). None of these people were credentialed or somehow entitled to have God show up in their lives. Nevertheless, out of the blue, God came.
God continues to show up in this way, in lives as ordinary and spiritually poor as yours and mine. We don’t “have it all together.” As often as not our lives are more about stumbling around in the half-darkness, making our way as best we can. In short, we are sinners. And yet God comes! Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given!
The good news of Christmas that remains good news all year is that grace bursts into our lives, unannounced, unlooked-for, undeserved. And we become the ones to whom the angels announce peace, goodwill, and joy. We walk again and again, haphazard by starlight, straight into the kingdom of heaven.
- Pastor Kristian