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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 2:1–20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 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.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (NRSV)

When I was in my final year of seminary, our preaching professor reserved the chapel for a few unexpected seminar sessions on how to effectively read scripture aloud. After all, she told us, as soon as you open your mouths to read the scripture, you have already begun to preach. The words you emphasize, she continued, the phrases you speak more softly, the cadence of your voice—by the mere act of reading the scripture, you are already demonstrating what you find the most life-giving and the most challenging in the text. She then handed this particular text to us and had us practice reading it aloud to her.

With that preaching lesson in mind, I invite you to reread this passage from Luke 2. This time, though, read it out loud. What jumps out at you as you do that? What words do you find yourself emphasizing? Do you focus on all of the background information that Luke offers us in verses 1–5? Or, do you linger more in verses 6 and 7, noticing the rather sparse way Luke tells us Jesus was actually born? Is it the vision of the angels singing to the shepherds that captures your imagination and has you humming parts of Handel’s Messiah? Might it be Mary’s pondering or the shepherds’ joyful journey? What part of this scripture do you emphasize as you read? More importantly, why do you think that is?

On this Christmas Day, I invite you to pay attention to the details. God does. Otherwise, why would God have dared to come among us as a vulnerable, poor baby? Why else would God have decided that our humanity was important enough to fully inhabit for God’s own self? All of it, all of us, matters to God and has been redeemed by God through this unearned and unexpected gift of Jesus. Merry Christmas!

Love Incarnate, I pause on this Christmas Day to offer you my whole heart as my response of thanks and praise. Thank you for loving me so much that you reached out in flesh and blood in the baby Jesus. Thank you for loving me so much that you wanted to absorb all of the details of being human. May I spend this day in gratitude, aware of the love you continually pour into your creation. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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