God is good so good at timing. God always does things at just the right time; that’s one of the things that makes tonight such a great story! In those days our story begins, the Emperor ordered that all the people in the empire be registered in their home towns. He was just doing what powerful leaders do counting the people, so he could collect taxes. But God used the Emperor’s decree to accomplish another deeper purpose, God’s purpose. It looked like the time belonged to the Emperor, but it really belonged to God!
The census sent people home to comply with the order. Among them were a man named Joseph, from Nazareth, in the north of Palestine, and his very pregnant wife, Mary. They needed to go to Bethlehem, many miles to the south, the home town of Joseph’s ancestors one of whom was the revered King David.And it was Mary’s time. While they were there in Bethlehem the time came for Mary to deliver her child.
And we all know the story. Full of travellers, tiny Bethlehem was out of lodging. They had to stay in a stable perhaps attached to one of the crowded inns. And there Mary gave birth. Unnoticed by the world, left like so many refugees to fend for themselves with inadequate resources, the couple brings Mary’s child into the world. But that’s not what makes it a great story.
The story is great because, not only was it Mary’s time it was God’s time!
It was God’s time to intervene in the world and begin setting the world right, after centuries of darkness. Centuries of longing for God’s presence, God’s vindication, God’s mercy, God’s justice to shine in their lives and brighten the whole world. Centuries of despair, and cruelty, and sin, and darkness, and death.It was time!
Time to give birth to a new world and that’s what God did, almost unnoticed, in that birth long ago in Bethlehem! The child born Jesus was not just the child of Mary and, as people supposed, the child of Joseph; JESUS WAS THE SON OF GOD!
It was time! Time for God to set things right, make the creation new
So, what does God do? God sends messengers to shepherds! Shepherds. Among the lowest of the low. Despised, ostracized, humble, stinking shepherds.
And Angels visited the shepherds at night. At night, when fears are heightened, anxieties are more real, and danger is ever-present. God chose the time and God chose to come at night, when the world was darkest and most afraid. And in this great story, the shepherds hear a message: Don’t be afraid! We have good news, of great joy! A child has been born today! He’s Son of David, Messiah of Israel, Saviour of the world, Lord of the universe. But you won’t find him in a king’s palace. You’ll find him in a manger, wrapped in bands of cloth like any other peasant child. He’s born for you. Today! Hurry! Go!
Today. That’s God’s time. Today, when we do our living and dying. Today, when we do our sinning and our hurting, our kindnesses and our loving deeds. Today, when we fear, and today, when we hope. Today, in our darkness, and today, in the dawning light. That’s Gods time TODAY!
And the shepherds go. The shepherds go with haste they hurry into town to see what they’ve been told. And they are amazed. They share the message they received from the angels. And, although they go back to their fields, back to their sheep, they now have reason to give God praise and glory. They’ve been changed, changed profoundly and completely, by Gods entrance into their lives.
Its GOD’S time. TODAY!
Not only for shepherds, but for you! The child is born for you, for me, for all the world and he come bringing Gods light and love and joy and peace and forgiveness and justice TODAY! And THAT’S what makes it such a great story.
Tonight, the invitation is extended to each of us. Its time! Its Gods time to act, act graciously and lovingly and God has done just that, in sending Jesus.
And it’s our time to respond.
Respond like the shepherds, and hurry to the manger, to see what God is doing, in time TODAY! Experience the wonder, marvel at the humble beauty, bask in the love poured out, abundantly, lavishly, for you, for me, for the world.
And then, respond like Mary. Mary treasured all these words all these things shed seen and heard and pondered them in her heart. Ponder. Its time, now, to ponder. Don’t be in a hurry to put Christmas behind you. Or, more accurately, don’t be in a hurry to put Christ away for another year! Take it in. The humble beauty of this night, of what God has done today! Soak it up. Let it refresh you, renew you. And then offer God the praise God deserves for creating such a wonder.
Its time. Its Gods time to do something beautiful for you, for me, for the world. And God has done just that! It is a great story, after all!
And its time, now, for us to take our part in the story. Today