After reading Luke’s account of the nativity once again, I was struck by the amount of motion that takes place in the story. People and events are moving fast as the birth of the Christ child approaches. And so is God.
For instance, Luke begins his telling of Christ’s birth with a word going out from the Roman emperor: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). That command set people in motion—they must go to their appointed towns and villages to be registered. We always focus on Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, but we seldom stop to think they were not alone. Many others must have been on the move in those days trying to get to their hometowns. People in motion. That was a lyric from a 60s song: ¹“All across the nation/ Such a strange vibration/ People in motion.” A word goes out; people in motion; and they come home.
Then there’s the part about the angels and the shepherds. The angels go out to the shepherds in the fields. They have a word too—a word from God: “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” (Luke 2:11). The shepherds respond by going “with haste” to find the baby lying in a manger, just as the angels foretold. The word goes out; shepherds in motion; they come home to the love of God in the Christ child.
Each of the actions in the story has a response. It’s almost like Matthew is rewriting one of the laws of physics—“for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”—to fit the nativity story as God’s law of love: “for every action of God’s love, there is a human reaction.”
“When [the shepherds] 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” (Luke 2:17).
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18).
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:19).
Amazed. Treasured. Pondered. Glorify. Praise. How else to respond to such great Good News? Christ is born in Bethlehem. Emmanuel! Now God is with us.
As we approach Christmas this year, I’ll be thinking about all the motions we go through to get ready for the big event: the shopping, the cooking, and the traveling (for some). But I’ll also be thinking about the God who set in motion the greatest love story of any and all time. The Word from God goes out into the world: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” And once again, I will be amazed. I’ll treasure this word and ponder it in my heart. I’ll give glory to God and praise my maker for this exceptional act of love and grace.
And I’ll sing a new song: “All across Creation/ there’s a new vibration/ God in motion.” And I’ll come home to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
How about you? God is moving in your life. Are you ready to come home?
¹Scott McKenzie, “San Francisco,” 1967, Metro Lyrics, article on internet, http://www.metrolyrics.com/san-francisco-lyrics-scott-mc-kenzie.html