In December 2004, Time magazine published “Secrets of the Nativity.” The article indicated that Biblical scholars struggle with the nativity narratives—found only in the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke. The author raised a lot of questions. “Where was Jesus actually born? Who showed up to celebrate the baby’s arrival? What about the virgin birth? Who were the wisemen?” Does it really matter?
Christmas is about NOW—not then! It is about believing that God really is with us! We aren’t called to believe anything in particular about angels, wise persons or a virgin birth. We are called to believe that something happened then, maybe in Bethlehem, maybe in Nazareth (who cares) that changed the course of history and by that Advent brought into being a whole new order of life. This new order hasn’t come to fulfillment yet, but the Promise is that it is on the way. The shape of that new order was described by Isaiah:
The wolf shall live with sheep,
The leopard shall lie down with the kid
The calf and young lion shall grow up together
The cow and the bear shall be friends
And their young shall lie down together.
Isaiah takes creatures of nature, who are normally enemies of one another, who generally feed upon one another, and describes them living together in peace and contentment as an image of the new order God has inaugurated. An order where natural enemies become friends. Do we really buy into the Christmas Promise? The Promise is not a fact or a joy to be realized in some other world. It is here and now for those who see.