So what’s next? The crowds have dispersed, the hymns have been sung, and Christmas Eve has given way to the dawn of a new day. The morning light has overcome the night’s darkness. The waiting is over. The child has been born and the angel has announced the good news of great joy. So now what? What comes after the birth announcement? What do we do now that we have been told that the child has been born, wrapped in bands of cloth, and is lying in a manger?
We’ve all received a call, a text, an e-mail telling us that the baby has arrived and we got up to go and see. It’s one thing to hear about the birth. It’s another to see it, experience it, take it in, and make it a part of ourselves. That’s what Christmas morning is about. That’s what Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:8-20) is about. “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,” the shepherds say to one another.
Good news of great joy always demands a response. It asks us to go and see. That’s what the shepherds did and that’s what we must do. The reading from Luke takes us to Bethlehem. Bethlehem, however, is not just a physical place. Today Bethlehem is more than a geographical location in Israel. Today Bethlehem is within us. It is a spiritual reality in the heart of every human being. Bethlehem is situated amidst hope and joy, sorrow and loss, conflict and chaos, healing and reconciliation, cruelty and violence, peace and justice. It is a real place, in Israel and in us.
If we don’t go to Bethlehem and see “the child lying in the manger” of our lives the “good news of great joy” announced by the angel is just information and Jesus’ birth is just another historical fact. We don’t need more facts and information. We need meaning. We need to make meaning of “the child lying in the manger” and allow him to give meaning to our lives.
Christmas Day asks us to move from the fact of Jesus’ birth to the meaning of his birth. What does his birth mean for your life and my life? What do our lives look like now in light of this birth? How does this birth change our lives?
The child has been born, wrapped in bands of cloth, and is lying in a manger. Leave your fields and flocks. Treasure and ponder. Return to your fields and flocks. This is our Christmas work. It will reveal the meaning of Jesus’ birth in our lives and make meaning of our lives.
So tell me, what’s next for you? What comes after the birth announcement? What will you do now?
We hope that your Christmas was filled with Good News and Great Joy.