the nativity of our lord,
christmasEve eve …

Luke 2. 1-14
What was, is now, and will be forever!

Away in a manger, No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus Asleep on the hay ….

Well, I wasn’t, exactly, sure how that would work out. Thanks for your help! The old voice isn’t as limber on this side of the pandemic! But I tried, a few times, just reading the words, but it didn’t sound right. Guess some things just have to be sung.

“Away in a Manger!” It’s, probably, the first Christmas song most of us learned. Simple. Easy to remember. And, of course, about us … BEING LITTLE! And the song – at least in the past – also had a special connection with us Lutherans! There’d been a time – as legend had it – that it was written by Martin Luther! Luther’s Cradle Song, they called it! Turns out the song was, actually, from right here in America. From the late 1800s. And we Lutherans adopted it, like everyone else! Not so much a carol, though, as a lullaby. Soft and gentle! Calming! Quieting! Comforting! A loola loolai lay kind of thing, meant more to put baby Jesus to sleep, than anything!

Well, as I was humming the song, getting into the spirit of things, I realized something. Christmas, for most of us, is all about chronology. Especially, the way Luke tells the story. He begins with the angel’s message to Mary! Nine months after that, Jesus is born! Then, there’s the Naming, the Presentation. Twelve years later, Jesus is, again, in the temple. Day-by-day … Week-by-week … Year in and year out … Luke pulls back the curtain and paints a picture of Jesus! Luke’s the only gospel-writer that tells us how old Jesus was when “he began his work!” Thirty years old!

We read Luke and it’s easy to imagine that we hear a clock clicking in the background. We read Luke and it’s easy to picture the pages fly off the calendar! And we get a sense of now, but not yet! Of not yet, but becoming! Tonight, we look down at the child … wrapped in ban ds of cloth … lying in a manger … and we dream of who, of what, that child will one day become. He’s not there, yet. But one day … one day … one day …. For now, tonight, he’s just a baby. A porcelain king by Hummel. A precious moment savior. Pretending. Making believe. Just a child until he grows older. Just a baby until he gets bigger. For now, though, we simply sing him to sleep. “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.” But what if …

What if the important thing about Jesus isn’t his age, but his very “baby-ness”? Look at it this way. When we hear the word ‘king,’ we think of power. Of power and of glory. When we think of Jesus as king, he’s walking on the clouds! He’s riding a white stallion, leading an army of millions! He’s separating the world into saved and damned, into sheep and goats! Judging who’s naughty and who’s nice! But tonight, when we look at the baby, wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger … there’s none of that! That’s just not what babies do! What if Luke isn’t, so much, telling us, “One day … Some day ….” But what if he’s showing us, this IS the king! This is how JESUS reigns! Not with power, but with weakness! Not with glory, but humbly, meekly. What if Luke’s telling us not to look for castles, but for stables! To look for straw, not for gold!

We won’t find Jesus dressed in soft robes! We won’t find Jesus wearing fine clothing or living in luxury in royal palaces! That’s not who he is! He’s the child … wrapped in bands of cloth … lying in a manger … This night isn’t the exception; it’s the rule! This isn’t a for-now, waiting for something-more; this is a forever. This IS the savior! This IS the king! Once and always! And if we’re looking for something different, down the road … If we’re expecting something more, over the hill … Well, we’ll be sorely disappointed! Christmas isn’t a today, looking for tomorrow. Christmas is a right here! A right here and a right now! Christmas is a forever! This is the gospel! This is the gift! All at once!

This is the child who gives sight to the blind! This is the child who casts out demons! This is the child who cleanses lepers! Who stills the storm! Who walks on water! Who feeds the multitudes! Who changes water into wine! This is the one – as the creed puts it – who comes to judge the living and the dead! And when he does, we’ll fear him then as much as we fear him now, on this Christmas eve! Because this child is who Jesus IS! Who Jesus will always be! This child … wrapped in bands of cloth … lying in a manger …Patient … Gentle … Sweet … Kind … Bearing all … Believing all … Hoping all … Enduring all … This Jesus is love!

And any so-called secondComing will be no different from this! Any so-called secondComing will be the same as the first! The stars will shine! The angels will sing! And the shepherds will come with wonder! And in the silence of that night, when creation, once again, calm and bright, we, too, will sing our song to the savior … will sing our song to the king …

Away in a manger, No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus Asleep on the hay ….

Because, my friends, what once was … is now … and will be … forever … and ever … and ever …


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