Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sermon: Four Places Jesus Wasn't Born

Luke 2:1-20

As we gather today, it should be clear to us that Christmas is

about the birth of God’s son into the world. Now when a new baby is born to someone in our church family, there are a few pieces of information I always have to make sure that I get, because I know that people will ask me! I have to know that mom and baby are doing well, the baby’s name, and how big the baby is. How long and how much did the baby weigh. Important information. Oh, and I often hear women talking about how long the labor lasted, and if it was back labor. None of that is in the bible, so you can tell Luke, the writer is a man, because he has left out the important details.

Despite leaving all of that out, he gives us a lot of details about where Jesus is born. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem to be counted for the Roman census, and because there was no room for them in the inn, Jesus ends up being born in a stable. Luke feels that we absolutely need to know this. Why? What is so important about where Jesus is born?

I think Luke tells us that because first, it is unexpected for the savior to be born here, and second, it says something about what kind of man, and what kind of savior, Jesus is going to be. Let me explain. Jesus was the Messiah, he was the promised one, the one who would be the true king and restore Israel. To be that, there are many places Jesus could have been born, but he wasn’t. In fact there are a lot of places Jesus would have been expected to be born, people would have looked for him there, but a stable was certainly not one of them.

So for example, Jesus could have been born in a military

Compound of to a military family. For those in the Zionist movement at the time that was what they expected. They expected the messiah to be a military leader. Such a birth would have prepared us for a man of force and violence. He would have led the people in a revolution, with weapons and bloodshed. The Israelites might have been set free from Rome, and the independence of their nation restored at the cost of many lives. Of course, there had been leaders like that before, people who tried the military freedom option, but it never worked out. Israel just wasn’t strong enough even with military leaders to achieve their salvation that way. So Jesus wasn’t born there.

Or Jesus could have been born in a palace or governors house.

Such a birth would have prepared us for a man of political influence and power. He might have used manipulation and double dealing to gain prestige and move up in the world and lived off his ego while others suffered at his hand. Unlike the military leader, he probably wouldn’t risk a direct revolution, it would have been a dangerous affront to Rome, and losing a war means losing your head, so he probably would have chosen the status quo and the power he had, while looking for every political opportunity to gain more. And yes, every generation had these leaders too. Those who ultimately became part of the very system that people were hoping to be saved from. So Jesus wasn’t born there either.

Or Jesus could have been born in the home of a wealthy family.

Such a birth would have prepared us for a gentleman of privilege, who knew nothing of the hungry and homeless. He might have used money to buy himself into leadership, bribed his way to the top, and exploited the poor to further his gains. As a leader, he would have brought economic freedom for the rich, and better trade with Rome, but little else. Because no matter how wealthy he got, he would not be able to buy off Rome. And every generation had those leaders too, but they never turned out to be the messiah of the nation. So Jesus wasn’t born there either.

And in case you think I am being political, let me add that

Jesus could have been born in the temple to the family of a priest. As the son of God that religious upbringing might make sense. But then such a birth would have prepared us for a person from the religious establishment, who saw religion the way it always had been, and was a fervent protector of tradition. He might have used his religious influence to strengthen ties with the other religious groups reinforcing the ideas of religious elitism. If he succeeded in creating a revolution, it would have been a religious conservatism enacted into national law. And there were leaders like that in every generation too. They were trying to be messiahs, they had every intention of saving people, but something just wasn’t right. And so Jesus wasn’t born there either.

No, Jesus was born in a stable.

And we know what that means. It means humble beginnings, and being told there isn’t room for you here. It means understanding what it means to be among the least, the persecuted, the poor. It means struggling for everything he had. He was born with angels watching over him singing songs of peace and goodwill, denying the need for a military solution and implying religious change. The early companions to his birth are shepherds and sheep, a reminder that he would be like a shepherd to his people. That he would guide and protect, even as he cared for the littlest of lambs. He was born running from the political leaders, as a refugee. A reminder that there would always be those who were afraid of him, threatened by him, because he saw the truth behind their actions.

And because of all of that he is exactly what people needed, even if it wasn’t what they expected. He doesn’t lead an army, he doesn’t lead the government, he doesn’t lead business, he doesn’t even take leadership in the temple. Instead he brings the kingdom of God, which changes everything and challenges everything. His revolution is one of grace, of acceptance, of forgiveness, and of self-sacrifice. The salvation he brings sets people free from all that binds them, whether it is military or political, or economic or even religious. He sets people free from the sins of all those areas, the death that all those areas can bring.

Being born in the stable means that Jesus comes to people like us! To save us from our very real and everyday problems. That is why Luke wants to make sure that we know, so that we know the kind of man Jesus is going to be. He is the kind that turns worlds upside-down. Luke is saying, Prepare yourself to witness the power of God’s love as it becomes incarnate, in the flesh – watch what Jesus will do for you, for all humanity. Miracles are on the way that will change your life. Get ready, because the Messiah wasn’t born where you expect, so he is going to do some unexpected things.

Even now, so many years after it happened, it still seems surprising that God would do it this way, and so that is why it is important that every year we remind ourselves again – this is the kind of man Jesus was – even though I know some of you would still like to know if he weighed 7 pounds 4 ounces or 6 pound 2 ounces. 

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