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 Saviour, 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 favours!’
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
When the angel Gabriel first announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Israel’s Messiah, he
told her that the “power of the Most High would overshadow [her].” Mary must have been a bit
confused by these words—being quite familiar with the mechanics of conceiving a child—but ultimately
trusted that God was about to do something beyond her comprehension, beyond her capability. She
would be the vessel for God’s power, but God was the one doing it.
Just a short time later, Mary finds herself gazing lovingly at the newborn child, listening to a group of
dirty, poor shepherds regale her with an incredible tale of their own visitation by angels. It must have
been a bit of a surprise to receive such unusual company. Yet, in the midst of all the joyful noise, Mary
simply reflects quietly. She does not ask “How could this be?” Why not?
As the first person to intimately know the Messiah, she has already felt firsthand the power of God. This
power is not the same as Caesar’s, who issues decrees and passes unjust tax laws that will be used to
oppress the poor. It is the steadfast love of God that has enveloped Mary, surrounded her,
overwhelmed her throughout her pregnancy and now lays before her in the manger. The one who has
been born King, who has been given David’s throne and will reign over the house of Jacob forever, is
imbued with a different kind of power: love. This love will lead him to the cross, where love will
overcome sin and death. So, of course when shepherds come knocking, she does not fret, she does not
even seem surprised because she has been overshadowed by the love of God in Christ.
The candle of Love that we light today may seem small and
insignificant, but it reminds us that the power of God is made manifest in the small, weak, and
vulnerable way of Christ. We light the Christ candle as well, as Christ is the embodiment of the hope,
peace, joy, and love promised to us by God.
Loving God, This Christmas, may we be overshadowed by your love expressed in Jesus. May
we come to know it deeply in our own soul, wrapping us warmly in a cold world. May we also see it in
unexpected places and people, among those whom the world has forgotten, as Mary did, and not
question it but simply trust that it is you, and not us, who will do the impossible. Amen.