And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1, 6-7
Below are excerpts from a Christmas sermon by the sainted Dr. Norman Nagel. He focuses on St. Luke’s use of the Greek expression “It happened” (Ἐγένετο) that is found repeatedly in the birth account. May these words be a blessing to you as you reflect on what has certainly happened for us.
“It happened.” That is how the Christmas Gospel begins. “It happened.” “It came to pass” has rather an aura around it. “It happened is such a matter-of-fact and ordinary way of reporting an occurrence that most modern translations leave it out, regarding it as redundant. If you report what took place, you don’t also have to say that it happened. True, but when the event has suffered such a lack of focus that is has been turned into a pretty myth to make shallow pretenses of a piece with reindeer in the sky and “all I want for Christmas is my two-front teeth,” then it is not redundant to hear the evangelist report matter-of-factly, “It happened.”
From God then comes His word through His messenger: “Fear not.” Good news. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). So that is it. That is why Caesar Augustus and Quirinius and Joseph were where they were and did what they did. So these shepherds as the first to be told would know what had happened. The Good News is what happened…The angel’s message is simply what happened – a birth – and the identification of the one born – “a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” Impossible? No, it has happened. God does not have to wait for clearance from us whether it is possible or not. It happened. A Savior born, Christ the Lord.
This is what the angel said in the unmistakable and fearful glory. Could it be so? The shepherds find it so when they follow the message of the angel. They go to Bethlehem and find the message to be true…The shepherds were next in proclaiming what had happened. The birth was the birth of the Savior, who is Christ the Lord…They feared God above all and from Him came the Good News, His Good News. The shepherds followed and found and carried on the telling of the message they had received. They took it from God. What He said had happened, and they believe, most incredible of all, that this birth was for them, the birth of a Savior who is Christ the Lord. For them and for you, yes, for you. This is how much God loves you. It happened and you have been told.
The words concerning Mary’s baby are spoken to you also. To you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord. That is who is for you from God. Such is God for you. Fear Him, above all else and from Him hear the message. Nothing good comes ahead of that; nothing is surer than that. Everything else comes after that, fits in with that, is illumined by that fact. You have it on the highest authority that Christ has been born. It is an authority not of power but of love, God is pleased with us; He loves us.” (taken from Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel. St. Louis: CPH, 2004, p. 28-32).
Prayer - Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come. Help us by Your might, so that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy, that we may receive You in joy, and serve You forever; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan