Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas blessings

Luke (Luke 2.8) tells us that the first announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ was made to "shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night." It was not made to rich men living in pleasure, or to learned men (although learned men did come later), but to ordinary men who were going about their business. Ordinary men doing their jobs, following their vocation.

Oneof the errors that led to the popularity of monasticism in the Middle Ages was that you could not have close communion with God in secular work, but had to give yourself up to a life of contemplation. But the shepherds tell us something quite different, namely that there is no lawful vocation that God is not pleased with. Matthew Henry wrote:

"We are not out of the way of divine visits when we are sensibly employed in an honest calling and abide with God in it."

And it was those men, ordinary men, who were blessed, not Herod in his palace, or the high priest in the temple. No matter where you are this Christmas, or any other time of the year, you can meet with God. The idea that we need special disciplines such as the Lectio Divina to meet with God, or that new monasteries should be started, is quite wrong.

And what were the shepherds called to see? A child, wrapped in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger. A child for whom there was no room at the inn. Calvin wrote:

"So he was pushed into a stable and lodged in a manger, denied a place of hospitality among men, that heaven may lie open to us, not only as a place in which to lodge, but as an eternal home-land and inheritance, and that angels should receive us to dwell with him."

There is no room for Christ in so many homes this Christmas, and that is a tragedy, for thoe who have no room for Christ in this life will find that He has no room for them when He comes again with glory to judge the living and the dead. As for those who have received Him,

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above;
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

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