“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 2:6-7 (NRSV)
The Christ child arrived and everything changed. On the very first night of his earthly life, there was no place for Jesus to lay his tiny head or for his parents to rest after a long journey from Nazareth. Jesus began his life by going without. A lowly stable filled with animals was also filled with the God of the universe – how about that for absurdity? Christmas is a paradox. At the heart of the Christian faith is this notion of paradox. In a broken world filled with suffering, we at Lutheran World Relief choose to take on the work of hope as our calling.
“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” – John 1:10
Christmas is a game-changer. How fitting that the image of God becoming human is one of a helpless child of sojourning parents with no place to stay. Christ himself came into the world in a position of need. The first Christmas wasn’t about nice feelings with family and friends. It was a decisive act by God, breaking into our humanity in the most vulnerable form to walk with us. Jesus modeled what it looks like to walk and work with our neighbors. In Christ, God has modeled for us the essential act of accompaniment, one of LWR’s core values. Jesus met others eye to eye, pointing them to a new future. And our future in Jesus has its genesis at Christmas.
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All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” – Matthew 1: 22-23 (NRSV)
Christmas is a teaching moment. The birth of Jesus teaches us a lot about the character of the God we serve. Even being innately divine, the King of the Universe humbled himself and became a servant to humanity. God left the perfection of heaven and took on flesh and the accompanying poverty and brokenness of our humanity. Emmanuel. God with us. At LWR, as long as our vision remains unachieved, we are restless. We seek relentlessly to learn, adapt, and grow. Our goals are so compelling and human suffering so pervasive that we are unsatisfied with the status quo.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:5
Christmas is a paradigm shift. In Christ, we receive the gifts of hope and light. A manger holds the light of the world and hope for humanity. God calls us to love and care for our neighbors in need. Maybe on that first Christmas night, the innkeeper was trying to answer the call of Jesus, in a strangely profound way. And now, today, we go forth to share those same gifts of hope and light with our brothers and sisters in need. In our work at LWR, we seek to share these gifts day-in and day-out with a heart of stewardship. We are compelled toward responsibility and justice as wise trustees of the gifts of Jesus.
Christ is born. We have a Savior. Everything has changed. From all of us at Lutheran World Relief, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.