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Celebrating a king’s birth

December 25, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 2:1-14

1 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

When Rome crowned an emperor, they gave him the titles “Savior” and “Lord,” choirs sang, and they affirmed the emperor divine. Luke wrote his story of Jesus’ birth to say that Jesus, not Caesar, was truly Savior, King and God. * Shepherds were not “A-listers”—they’d never be called to an emperor’s coronation. Hebrews scorned them because they couldn’t observe the detailed rituals it took to be “holy.” But God made these shepherds the first to hear the “wonderful joyous news for all people.”

  • We’ve read the angel’s words so many times we may miss how astounding they were. Listen to them as if for the first time (as the shepherds did): “I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” What part of this message is most “wonderful” and “joyous” for you?
  • Was Jesus born on December 25? It’s not likely. “That shepherds were watching their flocks outside at night, rather than having them in pens, suggests that the season was warm. (The date of Dec. 25 was selected later, probably to fit a Roman festival.)” ** How can the story of the shepherds watching their flocks outdoors, probably on a warmer night, remind you that the good news of Jesus’ birth applies all year, not just on wintry December nights?

Lord Jesus, I do not want to give my ultimate allegiance to any of today’s “Caesars.” Help my life and actions to reflect my trust and confidence in you. Amen.

GPS Insights

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel was born, raised, and attended college in California. Her Master of Divinity degree is from Duke Divinity School. She was ordained in the Rio Texas Conference, serving as an associate pastor in the Austin area and San Antonio. From congregational care and welcoming guests to leading in worship, Valerie loves the ministry of the local church. She feels blessed to have served as a pastor since 2011. She juggles ministry with being a mom to Caleb (born 2012) and Jacob (born 2015), friend, avid reader, lover of the outdoors, beginner to the world of CrossFit, and foodie.

I love babies. Their gooey, gummy smiles. The way they look at you, really look when they are snuggled in your arms. My Dad is a veterinarian so I’m delighted by all kinds of animal babies too–kittens, puppies, hamsters, rabbits, chicks. I’m amazed by gestation. Something so small grows as a living creature and then enters into the world. Life is beautiful and amazing. I hadn’t spent any time with newborns until I had my own kids. It really is true that life slows down and time sometimes feels like it has stopped when you are caring for a newborn.

Advent is filled with waiting. Now it is finally Christmas. If you joined us online or in person for worship for Christmas Eve we sang “Joy to the World” and celebrated the light of Christ who has come into the world. We have hope, peace, joy, and love because of what God has done for us. We may also be feeling all kinds of feelings today. Christmas isn’t merry and bright for everyone. Whatever has caused you pain and grief–infant loss, divorce, job loss, a broken friendship, the death of a loved one, or any other difficult experience–your feelings are valid and I see how complicated this time of year, and really any time of year, can be.

I’m a pastor so I love words. I love reading books on theology, hearing pastors like Adam Hamilton preach, spending time studying Scripture, and sharing lively discussions with my small group. Yet, today, of all days, I don’t have a lot of words (despite the length of this blog, haha). I am in awe and comfortable wading out into the waters beyond words to just simply behold. I want to rest in the gift that is God with us, Emmanuel. On this day we remember that God loves us so much that God took on flesh and became a baby. My invitation for us this day is to find a minute, five minutes, or maybe even twenty, when we can sit quietly with the good news of God’s love. You are loved. Will you join me in wonder as we look into the eyes of our Savior who came to us as a baby?

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* This is a short summary of a more detailed historical analysis by scholar Craig Keener at NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 8955). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, (p. 8958). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.