Christmas Reflection: Prepare, Partner and Partake
Christmas a unique and great event that changed the destiny of Human Race. The narration of this significant event has three episodes of angels appearing and giving messages. All these three events are well described by St. Luke.
First one was a private appearance that became public immediately to Zachariah (Luke 1:11-17), the second was also private to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and it was not disclosed immediately, the third was public and it was acted upon immediately by the shepherds (Luke 2: 8-20).
Message for ALL generations
1) Old grand father
The appearance to the father of John the Baptist, while he was officiating in the temple is the first appearance. He was old and did not aspire for a child as Elizabeth was past that stage of child bearing. They were righteous and blameless. As all Israelites, they also aspired to have children, but their prayers were not; perhaps they lost all hope. And God sent his angel with the message of hope – birth of a son who would become a prophet preparing the way for the incarnation of Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ. God can commission even retired people to start a new project for his kingdom. Were not Moses and Noah commissioned in their retirement age?
2) Teenage girl
A Virgin from a rural country, probably a teenager was puzzled to see an angel appearing to her. The message was that God has chosen among all women to bring forth to the world – Christ the Saviour. Amazing! Only a young girl can do this. God commissions young people to accomplish great things for His Kingdom. But, there is a tendency to despise young people who aspire for ministerial and missional roles. Mary was obedient to God’s call, even though she did not understand the whole process of redemption.
3) Working adults
A group of marginalized shepherds – able bodied, hardworking, dynamic adults out in the field, saw angel appearing to them, giving them the first information about the birth of Lord Jesus Christ. The Priests, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees – religious elite could pinpoint the place of birth of Lord Jesus to the Magi from the East but never bothered to visit Him to worship. They had their Scripture, but did not believe it. These illiterate needed the Word or Information; God was gracious to send his angel. Their response was wonderful; they rushed immediately, worshipped and spread the word to others. They were worshipers and witnesses.
Modern world believes that Christmas is just a cultural festival for children. But, it is for all generations, all ages, men and women, transcending all human segregations, separations and divisions.
Messages received in different contexts
1) Spiritual/religious context
The angels appeared in different places. God’s message of love could reach us in any context. Zachariah received the message in the temple of Jerusalem, as he was involved in the worship of Jehovah. Gabriel appeared to him as he ministered as Priest there. The same temple needed cleansing as it became ‘den of thieves’ instead of place of worship. But, message was received in that Holy place. God is involved in the lives of people who are willing to listen, even if they live among unrighteous people. He will intervene in our lives when we wait and worship in the presence of the Lord. Worship and prayer has become a ritual rather than reception of message from the Lord.
2) Home context
Angel visited the home of Virgin Mary. May be she was alone, after completing her household chores. Gabriel appears to her with a life transforming message. God speaks even when we are doing our routine mundane work. But our mind and spirit could be attuned to God’s Spirit. Not the context, but our attitude and alertness help us to be receptive to God’s message.
3) Work context
Shepherds were in their work environment, performing their duty keeping vigil to protect their flock. May be they were keepers of the sheep used as sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. The angel appeared to them with the precious message. They seemed busy with their work, but their response to go to Bethlehem tells us that they had their priorities right. Neither workaholic, nor they believed work as worship, but could balance their work and worship priorities.
The message for Zachariah was that John the Baptist would prepare the way for the Lord. Zachariah was a Priest, but his son would be a Prophet. Many parents like their children to be chip of the old block. Pastors want their children as pastors; missionaries as missionaries; doctors as doctors; politicians as politicians… etc. The ministry of John the Baptist would be in contrast to his father. Zachariah’s was Formal, while John’s was Informal; Zachariah’s in temple, while John’s was in wilderness; Zachariah’s was ritualistic, ceremonial and systematic but John’s was spontaneous, non-traditional and non-conservative. God has a special calling for each and every person. Zachariah was sensitive to the guidance of God and allowed John the Baptist to become a Prophet instead of a Priest like him in the temple.
For Mary, the message was a call to be partner in the Great Plan of Redemption of humanity. There was a need for human instrument to fulfil, God’s dramatic plan. It could be accomplished only by a woman, that to a young Virgin. God’s choice fell on this humble, submissive and available vessel for God. The Word has to become flesh; Mary was available to execute God’s Global agenda of sending His Son to die for human beings. Like Mary we are called to partner with God to accomplish His will in this world.
Shepherds, a marginalized group of people were called to partake – by worship and witness. God prepared the way for His Son to come, called Mary to be a partner and invited shepherds, representative of humanity to partake in the New Creation. Shepherds responded well by worshiping and witnessing.
This Christmas season once again reminds us the basic call for all Christians. We are called to prepare the way for our Lord’s Second Coming. Our role is to reveal Lord Jesus Christ to the world that indwells in us. His love, grace, and power have to be demonstrated in this world through us. Like Mary we are His Holy Instruments. As members of the Body of Christ, we are worshipers and witnesses 24/7 for His Glory like the shepherds. Worshippers from all people irrespective of their caste, language, culture, nationality, economic status, social status…etc, would gather in eternity forever.