“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” John 3:16
The life and ministry of Jesus was rooted in the “ordinary and everyday world,” the scholar J. D. Crossan has said. Jesus’ stories featured recognizable characters. His miracles occurred on familiar roads. His teaching took place in accessible settings. As a dear professor and mentor of mine once said, “In presenting the kingdom of God, Jesus never asked people to leave their world.”
As the gospel of John describes, God sent God’s son into the world–our ordinary and everyday world. U. A. Fanthorpe’s poem, BC:AD reflects on the earthy and unremarkable circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Christ was born on a regular, still and starlit night. A great shift in history went relatively unnoticed. Even those compelled to travel to see him were simply walking, Fanthorpe writes, “haphazard by starlight.”
There is much that is haphazard along our journeys, too, this Advent. We walk at times without clear direction. Familiar landmarks can be obscured. We carry our questions along with our travel bags. Like the shepherds, we spend many nights staring at a blank sky. Like the sages, we set out with curiosity but wonder where the road leads.
The birth of Jesus reminds us that it is right in the midst of these ordinary and everyday circumstances of our world that we too can walk straight into the kingdom of heaven. Consider the birth scene: the one-motel town, the no-vacancy sign, the barn out back, the feeding trough turned crib, the bands of cloth found within reach, the cast of farm-workers and expectant parents. Every elemental detail sings out as clearly as the angel choir, reminding us that in order to experience the love for which we yearn this Christmas, God does not ask us to leave our world. God sends Jesus to us.
God-in-Christ, we give thanks for your Advent into our ordinary lives. Help us–this Christmas Day and in our everyday–to witness and reflect the transformative love of your Incarnation.
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
Rev. Alan Sherouse is husband to Jenny, father to Jack, Della, Warner and Bea, pastor of First Baptist and in all these things seeing evidence of “God With Us.”