Well, I’m half way there now. This is post 20 out of 40 at lent and the start of the third of four Gospels.
I’ll be honest with you, it’s a bit difficult to know what to write about with this. I mean, I’ve written about the nativity story once already and Jesus’ baptism twice, so I don’t have much to say that I haven’t said already.
Not only that, but this is probably the most read Bible passage of all (except, maybe, 1 Corinthians 13, which gets trotted out at loads of weddings. Including my own.), so it’s one which everyone is so familiar with that there’s nothing particularly new that I can bring to it.
But, that’s kind of the point now. We are so familiar with this that the story is woven into our traditions. Sure, most are familiar with it within the sanitised environment of school nativity plays, where Joseph, Mary and Jesus are almost pushed into the background by sheep, horses, llamas and Spiderman, but we know the basis of it so well that it’s a part of us. We could recite the events to anyone. It’s a supernatural story, but it’s normal.
And so are those in the story. Zechariah and Elizabeth are normal people living with the cultural shame of childlessness. Joseph and Mary are normal Jewish people of the time, planning a life together, going on pilgrimages, taking their new born son to be circumcised. The shepherds are normal people, working at night in a harsh, dangerous environment.
This is what Jesus comes into. Normality. The everyday, mundane world we all live in. And, by coming, he makes it magical, alive, full of hope.
Look at the reaction of John, not even born, but excited. Look at children at Christmas, or remember how you felt. It was amazing and wondrous. You couldn’t wait.
That’s what he did to the adults whom he encountered, even as a baby. From Elizabeth to Simeon to the people the 12 year old Jesus spoke with in the Temple, they were all astonished, joyful and alive to new possibility.
That’s what he does now. He comes into our normal, everyday lives and turns them into lives bursting with potential and hope. He turns us from cynical, world weary people to that wide eyed child again, expectantly waiting on the gifts we know we’re going to get.
The gifts aren’t just for a day, though. They’re for life. Now, and forever.