Back in the 1980s I took part in a national Methodist investigation into all aspects of poverty. My role was to explore with individuals and families living in poverty what were their experiences, hopes, and aspirations. I learned that, though money was short in every case, it was not money that mattered most to the people with whom I talked. What they really wanted was someone to stand by them – a friend to go with them, a companion on the journey. With that, they could tackle their problems one by one without handouts. As I listened, I realized that this was exactly what Jesus did: he came to be with us, one of us, in our poverty. He found us where we were and came to make the journey with us.
In his birth at Bethlehem, Jesus came to be the child of poor parents (we know this because they gave the offering of the poor when they took him as a baby to the Temple). Not only that, but he was born at a time when they had to be on the road, going from place to place, turned away at every door. And not only that, but he shortly afterwards became a refugee, in flight from Herod’s persecution. On the occasion of his birth at Bethlehem, angels announced his arrival – but to shepherds, not to dignitaries. Herding sheep was a lowly occupation; the guests invited by angels to adore the infant messiah were rough and humble people.
The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem introduces us to what will be a radical reinterpretation of what it means to be the messiah. The words “humble”, “simple”, and “unnoticed” all apply. And “accessible”. And “miracle”.
What areas of your life would you identify as poor? And in what areas are you rich?
Can you think of any occasions when you have witnessed (or heard of ) a great or famous person humbling him-/herself for the sake of someone else?
If you had seen an angel that holy night, and been privileged to worship the baby in the manger, what would you have taken as a gift?
God of love, we can never thank you enough for coming to be with us in Jesus. As we think of his birth at Bethlehem, the difficult start of a life that was to ask everything of him, we acknowledge that without him we are nothing, that our lives depend upon his love, his grace, his humility. And in his holy name we give you thanks for so great a salvation. Amen.