Emotional Power for Ordinary Folk
Perhaps it’s just a sign of age, but every year I find the Christmas story more emotionally power-packed than the year before. Christmas is decidedly poignant for ordinary folk when reflecting on the event. Perhaps our post Christmas reflections reveal more about what is important than all the hype leading up to Christmas. The emotions stirred up inside us by the Christmas event speak louder than the jingling registers at the checkout.
Sure, the celebrations are grossly commercialized, cheapened by over-decoration. Christmas is slickly packaged for movies and TV, and even declared illegal in government buildings. And it’s partly eclipsed by the charming 19th century fairy story a New England father wrote for his children. But – so far at least – it hasn’t been completely stifled. Just when it seems about to be replaced by its own trappings, the real story shines through again. I hear a section of the Messiah on the radio, the words of a carol in a shopping mall, a picture on a greeting card, or Linus’ moving recital of Luke 2 in Charley Brown’s Christmas. (see the video here)
This year, this is different
What hit me this year harder than ever before was how the central characters of that story are such absolutely ordinary folk going about their everyday lives. And then I realize how its message is still for ordinary folk going about their everyday lives. We now think of Mary and Joseph as famous. But, actually, to their friends and relatives they were no different from thousands of other pious Jews awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The baby Jesus looked and behaved like any other newborn. The business about their having to use a manger for a crib shows how far they were from being celebrities.
To be sure, Jesus’ birth itself was a miracle. But at the time only Mary and Joseph knew that. The only other thing that was out of the ordinary was the appearance of angels to announce it. And look where they went to do it! They didn’t go to Rome to talk with the Emperor. The angels did not go to Jerusalem to discuss theology with the Chief Priest. They didn’t appear to the loyal Jewish underground seeking to overthrow oppressive Roman rule. Nor did they go to historians to make sure all was recorded properly. Instead they went a few Joe Average blue-collar workers who’d pulled the night shift on a Judean hillside – men who are not even named in the story!
What God thinks of Ordinary Folk….
By having the angels declare the Great Gift from Heaven in this way God shows us just what he thinks of human power, fame, wealth, pomp, and wisdom. He says, in effect, that since his gift is to all people it just won’t matter which ones he picks to be the representative recipients of his birth announcement.
Every year I feel more like a shepherd.