2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Announcement to shepherds
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said,14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
Thoughts on the passage:
“What do you want for Christmas?” I have probably asked my kids, other peoples kids, my siblings, my spouse, and even more people this question a lot over the last month or two. I have even asked it of myself. I saw a great post on Facebook about what a parent wanted.
I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, your classes. I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don't care. Hearing you laugh is music to me. I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how, and I'm not bragging, but I did a pretty darn good job. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work. I'm pretty proud of it. Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don't mind. In fact, I wouldn't want it any other way. I want you to spend your money making a better life for you and your family. I have the things I need. I want to see you happy and healthy. When you ask me what I want for Christmas, I say "nothing" because you've already been giving me my gift all year. I want you.
For many of us, especially those who are older and do not need more things, this does a great job of capturing what we want for Christmas.
“What do you need for Christmas?” Here is a question I have not found myself asking. One reason for that is that like many of you, I have been told that Christmas is about imagining the things we want, not the things we need. In fact, if we started making an honest list of what we wanted and what we needed we would find there are some similarities but probably a lot of the items are very different. I want a new television, but even if the one in our family room broke tonight I would not need a new television. I don’t want gift cards to Cub, but in terms of what I need, food is high on the list. Once we get beyond the basics like food and shelter, it can be hard to know what we need.
As I think back on past Christmases I wonder if the disappointments I have felt are usually because of that gap between what I want and what I need. More to the point maybe, not even knowing exactly what it is I need. I try and fill that gap with new televisions, or better gadgets, or nice clothes, but none of them can really meet my needs. It can be hard to know what it is we really need, except that we know we didn’t get it. It is that lack that causes us sorrow.
There is a gap between what we want and what we need when it comes to Jesus too. Look at the language and the exceptions around the birth of Christ. There is a lot about Jesus being the successor to David. People wanted a new king to rule over them. Wanting a king is a classic example of the break between want and need for Israel. They want a king, but what they really need is God. A king is not going to save them, a king is going to rule them, use them, and ultimately abuse them. David is lifted up as the great king, but what is his legacy? His sons fought among each other and tore apart the nation. He cheated on his wife. He had one of his faithful soldiers killed to cover it up. People might have wanted the next David, but it is pretty clear they did not need the next David.
Jesus does not come to give us what we want. Instead he comes to give us what we need. He comes in the most unexpected of ways, being born to a single woman, in a backwater town, in a humble stable. None of this is what we would expect for the King of Kings. Instead it is what we need. We want someone who will fix our problems for us. What we need is a God who will be with us in the midst of our problems and who will never leave us nor stop loving us.
Jesus comes down to earth and is born. He is not what we might want for Christmas. He is what we need. We need the Prince of Peace. We need the Light of the World. We need the one who will save us from our sins. Christ is born today, let us rejoice!
Questions to Ponder:
What is something you wanted for Christmas but were disappointed when you got it?
Where do you need Christ in your life right now?
Who is someone you know who needs Christ in their life?
God, we give you thanks that at Christmas you give us not what we want, but what we need. We need the unending love and grace that is offered to us through Christ. We need a closer relationship to you. Help us to make use of this greatest of gifts that is offered to us. Bless us in this new year that we might come to know you better. Amen