Hearing the Christmas story read from the Gospel According to Luke is essential to the celebration, in my opinion. Matthew also records the events, but not in the lush detail that Luke used. And if your earliest memory of this passage comes from Charlie Brown, it was Luke that Linus read as he stood on the school stage. It resonates. It reveals. It will preach.
Because the passage is so familiar, I wondered what it would sound like in an unusual translation. Typically, we hear some variety of New Revised Standard, New International Version, New King James, or the original King James. As you know, I advocate for reading several translations of a passage to fill in gaps of nuance and meaning.
I realized that I had never read it in the Message, which I appreciate for its use of contemporary dialect. I eschew The Message for traditional writings (like the Psalms) so I thought I would see if there are any undiscovered nuggets in Luke 2. Peterson did not disappoint.
Luke 2 (The Message)
2 1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
As I read the word “hostel” I immediately thought of the word “hostile”. Indeed, Christ was born into a hostile world. Born of unwed parents in a society that would instantly reject them, born to save a world that would basically ignore his gift, born in a government system that oppressed and persecuted his people, Jesus was born in a hostile, if not a hostel.
An Event for Everyone
8-12 There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
An event for everyone! Be mindful that “everyone” includes the people who don’t look, act, think, or live like you. Everyone, worldwide.
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.
Seeing was believing.
This is why it is imperative for modern day Christ followers to live out the Gospel in their behaviors, attitudes, and deeds. How can we hope that people will see Jesus if not in what we do and say? How can we expect the good news to spread if we don’t live it out in front of people? When we cut people off on the highway in our BMWs with the ichthus icon on the trunk, giving them the finger when they honk in protest, do we really think that Christ will be seen and believed in this life? You’re the ONLY Jesus some people will ever see. Act like it.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
As we roll into this new year, may we be like Mary and keep Jesus’ teachings dear and deep within us. And then may we be like the shepherds and let loose, praising God for everything!
My prayer for you today is that you have a deep, meaningful, and life-changing 2023.
Believing is seeing. Go, and tell!
Merry Christmas by Michelle Robertson