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God is Here Among Us . . . By Tupper Garden

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us.  Luke 2

Luke’s shepherds react to the visitation of the angels with the quote above. Into their very ordinary lives the angels come making known to them this extraordinary news that a baby is born in Bethlehem who is the Messiah, the Lord. Quite naturally, they decide to go and see for themselves. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in a shepherd’s life every day.

You and I have heard the news as well. The problem for us is that the news has come once a year, every year, for as long as we have memory. The news has come not from angels but from churches and parents and story books. The news has been garbled by other news of sales at area businesses and the constant companionship of Jinglebell Rock on our car radios. But still, even amid all the competing memories and cultural accessories hanging to the Christmas news like ornaments on our living room trees, if we will allow it, the news comes to us with all the power of that first night.

It comes at church in the form of sermon and hymnody and anthem. It comes through the familiar reading of scriptures we almost know by heart. It comes in the traditions that develop over time in places like this, traditions like giving socks and underwear to needy children, or giving alternative gifts to agencies that serve them, or candles lit at midnight as we sing Silent Night. I sometimes think that the news comes even when we do none of these wonderful things, or in spite of them, for the news is not dependent upon us, it comes unexpectedly, to people who aren’t looking for it. It is God’s news, after all, not ours; news to all people.

And what is this news? It is that God is here, among us. God is here in a backwater of the Roman Empire, in a stable, born of two peasants, observed by a bunch of curious smelly shepherds. God is here for people living in Roanoke under any number of circumstances that might lead them to conclude that there is no God. That is the news, that God is here, with a face, and voice, and flesh and blood, and as real as cow dung, and as glorious as angel song. And, my goodness, if God is here, then there is hope for you and me and this old world that seems hell-bent on destroying itself and snuffing out goodness.

That is the news, this thing that the Lord has made known to us! Well then, let us go again to Bethlehem and see for ourselves. Let us find a quiet place, if only inside ourselves, where we can bow before the wonder of the light that shines in the darkness, and is not overcome by it. (John 1) Maybe we will be graced to take a bit of that light, God’s light, into the world. I pray so.

A Most Blessed Christmas to All!

Tupper Garden is the Senior Minister at
Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church
Visit them on the web at rcpres.org

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