Friday

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. (v. 7)

Luke 2:1-20 Friday 25 December 2020

Psalm 110

Background

I am writing this in mid-November, with only the haziest impression of what Christmas in Britain will look like this year. In England, we are in the midst of a second national lockdown, due to end on 2 December. It has been suggested by politicians and media alike that, by enduring a month of more stringent restrictions, we might be able to ‘save Christmas’.

Today’s reading is one that many of us are accustomed to hearing at a candlelit carol service, or at church on Christmas morning (while we wonder whether the turkey really will feed 12). This year, perhaps we might find ourselves reading it alone, in the quiet of our own homes. And perhaps the strange circumstances of 2020 might help us to empathise in new ways with the family required by the government to go ‘home’ (to Bethlehem, the home of Joseph’s ancestor David) but who found themselves separated from family and friends, and having to lay their newborn child in a manger "because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). Into these strange-yet-familiar places, the Christ child enters in, without fanfare, without ceremony, bringing peace.

Like Zechariah and Mary in the chapter before them, the shepherds have an encounter with angels. It follows a very similar pattern – the shepherds are terrified, but are told not to be afraid. They are given the good news of a miraculous birth, and a sign by which they will recognise God’s handiwork. As it was for Zechariah and Mary, the angels’ news is a gift that demands a response.

Perhaps, this year, Christmas will be a quieter affair in many households. And who knows – perhaps we will be transported to the night when "The world in solemn stillness lay / to hear the angels sing" (Singing the Faith no. 205).

To Ponder:

  • What is it about Christmas that politicians and the media feel the need to ‘save’?
  • How might the angels’ message be good news for us in 2020? What demands might it make on your life?
  • Take a moment to reflect on your experience of Christmas Day this year. What is different? What has remained constant? What do you miss? And what would you like to give thanks for?
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