Dec 3rd: As the Christmas Story is Told in Luke, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
As the Christmas Story is Told in Luke with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: How Does a Weary World Rejoice? A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Matthew 1.21, Luke.
Take the journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, envisioning their weariness on the long trip and finding shelter in a stable for Jesus’ birth, where God meets us in our weariness.
This is the first week of the season of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There’s a line from a Christmas carol that says, a weary world rejoices. Our world is so weary. Maybe you too are weary. What weariness Do you carry in your body and in your soul? That’s gonna be a theme for the next few weeks in this Advent season. How does a weary world rejoice? Now chances are pretty good that most of us know the basics basics of the Christmas story pretty well. And what a glorious story it is. A couple Mary and Joseph who courageously traveled to Bethlehem with Mary about to give birth, a radiant star shining brightly in the night angels feeling the sky was song, cows and sheep that somehow know to be tamed by the moment. proud parents showing off their newborn baby to delighted shepherds, wise men proclaiming the birth of a king. Glorious, isn’t it? The beautiful picture perfect Hallmark Christmas card? Well, that’s the sentimentalized in a romanticized version of the story. We forget sometimes that the real story was less than ideal. Anything but perfect. It was actually a real mess. Full of confusion, fear, uncertainty, and the unexpected. You know, kind of like life. I’m guessing most of us can relate to the mess. And the weariness more than we can relate to the Christmas card, Instagram, perfect version of the story. You know, we lose something really important. When we clean the story up and remove the mess and the pain and the weariness for it’s right there. In the midst of the weariness of the world and a weariness of our own lives, is where God meets us where love is born. It’s right there in the weariness that God is with us. So today, I want to do something actually a little different. I want to invite us to travel with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. And to actually experience their weariness, allow their journey to be our, our own journey. I’m going to lead us in a guided visualization. It’s going to be a journey, not so much of the mind. But the heart. And I invite you to use your imagination. As I guide you finding yourself on that dusty road with Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem. If you get distracted, that’s okay. Simply come back to my voice and the images. I’m awakening. So let’s travel together.
Consider Mary for a moment. God chose Mary, this ordinary poor young, unimportant girl, probably 1314 years old. In her culture and time, a nonperson even. This is who God chose to bear the incarnation of God’s love. This is who God chose to be the bearer of hope. God comes in the most unlikely places and the most unlikely ways through the most unlikely people. You know, makes you wonder how might God be seeking to show up, show up in this weary world in and through your life. Consider the courage of Mary. I’ve no doubt trembling with fear. The willing to trust we find Mary in our small dwelling place. It’s a simple tiny place with a dirt floor. There are a few furnishings and a straw palette for a bed. Even many of the poorest today have more. Mary prepares a simple meal, placing small loads to bake on an open fire. Joseph arrives. This face trouble Joseph says there’s an edict from the Emperor. Everyone must go to their own birthplace for an imperial census. You know what this means? We have 90 miles to travel to get to Bethlehem and with you about to bear a child. Joseph says I don’t know. I don’t know how we can possibly make this journey. I suspect you to know what it’s like to wonder how you’ll make the journey you know, you must make physically emotionally spiritually. Mary and Joseph gather some food for their journey. They load the donkey with their meager possessions and some blankets for the cold nights along the road. Bright and early, they start out. The sky is overcast. There’s a cold, biting wind blowing into their bases. They trudge this dirty, dusty, uneven, challenging terrain. Hour after hour. They pause at noontime by a ravine and eat some cheese and dry bread. And then go on. There’s rain, the dust turns to mud. Evening and darkness are coming when they find a mill and knock on the door. They’re wet, chilled, bone tired, so weary from the journey. Mary only a few days from childbirth. The miller lets them in. They sleep on bags of grain and a corner of the mill. Outside the wind house, rain beats against the roof. They have a restless night’s sleep those fearful thoughts that often come at three in the morning. Those fearful thoughts take hold of Mary. They refuse to go away until she drifts to sleep from sheer exhaustion. The next day they keep traveling under broken clouds. They meet others traveling from their homes who barely nod. Me notice how our own journeys can be so consuming at times. We even failed to notice others along the way. HOUR BY HOUR. Mary and Joseph trudged on the journey is long, difficult. It’s hard to see what lies ahead. What does it all mean? There are moments when fear takes hold. But somehow they muster the courage just to keep going. What fear takes hold of you on your journey. Where will you find the courage to keep going and take a breath. Imagine in the midst of your own weariness. Being graced with the strength you need when you need it the most. This night, an old villager and his wife that Mary and Joseph asleep in a corner of their hut. It’s good they say to welcome strangers, one may entertain God in doing so. I wonder if Mary and Joseph knocked on our door in the middle of the night. Would we open the door and welcome them in another long day, a day of climbing a winding road. Just when they begin to wonder if they can possibly go one step further. They see off in the distance. The city of Bethlehem in hope and expectation. Joseph knocks on the great door of the in. The innkeeper opens the door he’s a hulk of a man larger than life frame by the light of the fire blazing in the fireplace just behind him. Sorry, no room. No, not even a corner. The town’s fall because of the census. You might be able to find some shelter out the back there’s there’s a cave in the hillside. The heavy door claim shut the darkness of the night becomes even more penetrating. Joseph stumbles down a little hill the time. The time is very close. He’s finds the cave in the hillside with a shelter built in front of it. straw in the back. Standing in standing in the shadows, a donkey and some oxen. The dung is thick on the dirt floor of the cave with steam rising in the cold night air. The major which is an animal’s feeding trough. The manger gleams with the saliva of the oxen that have just eaten it If not a very likely place for the birth of Christ, the birth of love, the birth of hope and possibility. But you know, the less likely the better. Then we can’t say that our messy, imperfect, weary lives are any less likely a place for love to enter. A runaway child sleeps on a pile of straw at the very back. A frightened child who’s run away from the beatings of a stepfather. This unlikely space of grace welcomes those who are weary and have nowhere else to go. Is your heart a safe place? For those who have nowhere else to go? Mary goes into labor. This exhausted impoverished, frightened child miles away from home endures the most mysterious, sacred, terrifying, painful experience a woman may know. And enter that dark place that lonely place that unexpected place that God forsaken place. The child is born. God’s love enters the weary world. It was dirty. It was dark it smelled. It’s the very indignity of the story that makes it so compelling. Could it mean that our own indignity our own dark places, our own pain, our own fears? Our own weariness can be transformed into something holy and beautiful. For a moment there was sacred silence. And a child’s cry pierced the silence in the dark night air. Mary picks up, picks up the child and she starts to cry. Joseph tries to comfort her. I mean, she’s an awe. Her heart is bursting with love for the child she is holding. She welcomes a joy like she has never known before. And at the same time, she tells Joseph she wants her mother. She wants to go home and then wiping the tears from her eyes. She says she’s sorry. Joseph says that’s okay. That’s okay. And he means it. They hold each other. They cried together. Mary and Joseph hurt all over from their journey. Man, there’s nothing to eat. It’s cold, they’re tired. So very tired, scared and alone. There is this light that seems to be coming from a distant star. And the light penetrates the darkness through the cracks of the shelters roof and shines gently on this child’s face. And as Mary and Joseph are holding this child, they have this deep, deep sense that the child is holding them and somehow they know all will be well.
Scripture says Mary will conceive and give birth to a son and his name shall be called Emanuel, which means God with us. That’s the gift we prepare to receive again this Advent season. God is with us. Love is with us. And God meets us right where we are in our weariness. You know love can’t always fix things. But when we have a deep sense that God is with us in our weariness. We can endure those things that can’t always be fixed. Maybe even find some joy in the midst of the weirdness and do what we can do. To bring hope into a weary world may it be so