October 29, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
December 24: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-4 (15-20)
On this Christmas Eve, these familiar texts from Isaiah 9 and Luke 2 are usually portrayed with church choirs singing Handel’s “Messiah,” or cute little kids dressed in costumes playing Mary, Joseph, the angel, the shepherds, some animals, and the census keepers as they struggle to remember the script and bring to life the Scriptures that speak of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace on the one hand, and the enormity of the news of Jesus’ birth being pondered in the silence of Mary’s heart on the other hand.
What congregations, choral cantatas, and dramatic re-enactments of these two texts will attempt to do is to enter into the silence of Mary’s retreat, the dialogue among the shepherds, and Joseph going to Bethlehem for the census. This will be combined with the jubilation of voices and smiling faces as we proclaim the reality that out of the darkness and anguish chronicled in Isaiah 9, there was born a son, whose honorific titles truly express who he is, what he does, and why he does what he does. This Lord establishes justice and righteousness “from this time onward and forevermore.” In doing this, the Lord rights the world’s wrongs, upends powers and principalities so that the rule and reign of God’s love would be upon all people. It’s a comprehensive promise that is universal and total in the Lord’s application.
So that by the time we get to Luke 2, we see a careful narration of the holy family moving, attending to the imperial census, shepherds in another scene also on the move. As like a theater, there are multiple pieces happening on the micro level. But when we get to the end of the passage, we see the micro has macro significance and the micro are all part of what’s happening in the macro. The shepherds’ utterance expresses the enormity of their discovery: they are moved to glory and praise God, paralleling Mary pondering the gravity of the child she now nurses.
This Christmas Eve, like every Christmas Eve, is no ordinary time. It may seem like it because the texts and scenes are familiar, as are the festivities we all do in church sanctuaries, in our homes, at dining tables, and around Christmas trees. It’s not ordinary because we are invited again to the wondrous, extraordinary celebration of what the heavenly hosts are doing and what God’s people in every time and place have been and will do: praising and glorifying God, pondering such magnificence in our hearts, putting His love into action in service. What seems like micro- celebrations, micro – gifts, micro- acts during this Christmas Eve because of the familiarity, know that the Lord displays in the micro- the macro- of His intentions for all of creation – to bring about justice, righteousness, and peace.