A Strange Way to Save the World – Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

We have been celebrating the birth of Christ for thousands of years, but the story never ceases to amaze me each and every year. They always say that, for pastors, the two hardest sermons you write each year are Christmas and Easter, because the story is the same every year. Maybe I am new or something, but this story seems new to me every year. I find awe and amazement in it each and every time I read, and each year I feel it speaks to me.

When I think of the impact this story has had on my life how can I not find words to proclaim it every year I am called to preach on it. Scripture seems to have a way of transcending time and this scripture especially has a way of always speaking to a contemporary context.

Why though?

Because of what this scripture represents. When we read the story we can see the story happening right in front of us. We can understand the cultural implications of what is happening to the characters. Let’s look at what is happening.

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7

In our story we have a family who is on the lower rung of society, as we know from earlier scripture, and now is forced to travel. They travel with very little money, most likely, and very little prospects of what awaits them at their destination. Then when they get to their destination there is no place for them anywhere. Every place is full and no one has any sympathy for a 9 month pregnant Mary. Therefore, Mary gives birth in a stable and puts the baby in a feeding troth.

Not really the way anyone would expect the Savior of all mankind to enter into the world. To come into the world in this way almost seems like a punch in the face. It feels like God is just messing with us, but greater things happen because of the circumstances Jesus was born in. God was trying to send a message that this salvation is not like any other salvation you have ever heard about, but it is a salvation that turns the tables of society.

In 1993 a Christian band called 4Him released the Christmas song A Strange Way to Save the World. Every year I hear this song it brings me to the picture that the writer of Luke paints in his birth narrative. The song goes:

I’m sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
‘Cause never in a million lives
Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger
He saw with his own eyes
The message from the angel come to life
And Joseph said

Why me I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way
To save the world

To think of how it could have been
If Jesus had come as He deserved
There would have been no Bethlehem
No lowly shepherds at His birth
But Joseph knew the reason
Love had to reach so far
And as he held the Savior in his arms
He must have thought

Why me I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way
To save the world
(https://us.songselect.com/songs/1170127/a-strange-way-to-save-the-world/viewlyrics)e

Whenever I hear these words they hit me, truly what a strange way it was for God to save the world. But this is how God does it because it’s not the manner in which God comes, but the message that Jesus had for every one. In fact the manner in which Jesus comes is a message in itself. Christ came into the world in the manner in which God wanted the world to live. Jesus came into this world as a beacon of peace in a world full of violence. As a beacon of hope in a world of despair. A beacon of love for world filled with anger and hate. And a beacon of joy for a world saddened by what was happening.

Each of these four topics we have talked about this advent helps us to understand this strange way God chose to save us all. With an ordinary girl and a man of trade in a stable filled with hay, and with Jesus knowing there were so many more rulers in the world who could have saved God’s people.

The Roman Empire was in charge of things and ruled with an iron fist. The Israelites were looking for a Savior who would conquer the Romans the same way the Romans conquered them. However, Kings are not born into lower class. They aren’t born in stables. But isn’t this how God works.

Because God does save the world. God saves the world in God’s own way. Jesus does wonderful amazing things through his ministry, but not in the manner in which we think might often be done. Jesus saves each and every one of us. The life that he lived and the death that he died we for our salvation. When we recognize the place that it holds we affirm that magnitude of the Christmas story.

The shepherds may have been the only ones to visit that first Christmas, but rest assured every time we celebrate and acknowledge who Jesus is we become attendants at that scene. When we recognize the oddity that was Jesus’ birth and proclaim Christ as our Savior we become a part of the great cloud of witnesses.

The picture on the front of your bulletin is a modern depiction of the nativity scene before the birth of Jesus. It can be a tough reality for us to take in, but in the whole picture one of the most notable things amidst all of the things going on is the small planting the bottom center. We recognize even in the midst  of what we may view as a strange way to save the world God has planted the tree of life that saves each and every one of us.

AMEN!!!

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