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Christmas (Ages 9-12): Beyond Our Control

(You could begin by reading the scripture passage. Better yet, ask someone to read it to you. The Word of God is meant to be heard.)



At last, the first day of celebration arrives! We have been preparing for four weeks—the world around us seems to have been preparing since Halloween. Everywhere Santa, elves, reindeer, Grinches grin at us, stores decorate in sparkling colours of red and green, Christmas songs tell us all that we want. The world is ready. This is a feast alright—but not the feast that we celebrate. Our feast, which takes place at the very same time, is much stranger.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.

From the very beginning, St. Luke makes it very clear who has the power in Israel. From Rome, Emperor Augustus commands everyone's life. The Romans instil fear in the people and distrust of their neighbours. In Jerusalem, the “holy city,” always the threat of crucifixion looms. When the emperor wants everyone registered, everyone moves. And quickly.

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

In this culture of fear, Joseph must travel across the country with his very pregnant wife and provide for her in a crowded, unfamiliar town. He cannot feel in control. Making everything worse, her labour begins. This force, nothing can stop. It is beyond their control. The baby comes whether they are ready or not.


We know what it feels like not to be in control. Adults make decisions for us, whether we agree or not. Schoolwork piles up, and we do not know how to finish it all. Friends turn their backs on us. Loved ones fight. Parents divorce. People die. Countries are at war. All of this darkness is beyond our control. We cannot fix the world we live in.


How can we fix it, when we sin, too? We cannot seem to help ourselves. We mess up over and over. When we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” we know this is true.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Into all this darkness and fear, the child is born. In the dark, amid the smell of the animals, with steam rising off piles of animal dung on scratchy straw, in a gush of water and blood, this child is born.


But not just any child—of this one, angels sing.

Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

This child is the One who saves.

This child is the Anointed One of God.

This child is the Lord—God’s own very self.


So why then does he not come as a mighty warrior to conquer Augustus?

Why does he not come as a great hero to lift us up out of our messy world?

Why does he not come as the glorious king to vanquish our darkness and sin?

Photo by Alex Hockett on Unsplash

Why come instead as a baby who has no control,

who cannot even lift his own head,

who cries when he is hungry, or cold and wet and needs his diaper changed,

who only wants to be held?

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

At the cry of a newborn baby, everything stops. People listen. People smile. Everyone comes to see a newborn baby, even scruffy strangers smelling of sheep who come with a strange story to tell.


We celebrate the feast of our God who knows what it feels like not to be in control.

We celebrate the feast of our God who knows our fear, our pain, our loneliness.

We celebrate the feast of our God who knows our sin, our failures, our darkness, and—whether the world is ready or not—wants to be with us so badly anyway.


So when we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”—God says, “But I’m here.”


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