By Rev. Ronald Carlson Jr.
Dean of the Cabinet and District Superintendent of Riverview Park District
Read Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-14
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.” (Luke 2:8-9 CEB)
Birth stories are important in our family. Every year on their birthday, my children hear renditions of their birth stories. If we are together in person, they will get the longer story, and if it is through a phone call or FaceTime, it will be a condensed version of the story. When we talk about what happened in the days and hours around one’s birth, we are sharing the child’s birth story. Some details are told every year, and some are shared only when the story is told in its entirety. In our family, the birth stories are touchstones that remind us of where we were and where we have been. For example, important details that are always shared in Mackenzie’s birth story include her brother having his “best day ever,” the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, a conversation between cars with a neighbor, Beth’s reluctance to leave for the hospital too early, a pool and two grandpas trying to remember her name if she was a girl (Matilda they decided.)
This short segment that I highlighted might be my favorite detail of Jesus’ birth story. Over the years, I have had many different jobs doing various amounts of labor and hard work. Growing up, my dad worked in a shop doing back-breaking labor to care for his family, so I have always resonated with the “working folks” who do work that many times others are not willing or capable of doing. I see the workers in the fields as these people, and I am grateful every year that the angels chose to appear before them and announce the good news of Jesus’ birth.
Whenever I reflect on this passage, I wonder who would the angels appear to today. They may not appear to strictly laborers, but maybe those doing work that others wouldn’t touch, or perhaps just those other folks wouldn’t want to go near. In the past few years, those who were in my imaginary first hearers of this great word included Covid doctors and nurses, elementary school teachers, migrant workers, first responders, those working multiple jobs to make ends meet, the mentally ill, the perpetually abused, the addicts and the perpetually lonely.
My prayer for all is that we will take the time to remember who those folks are for us today. As we remember them, let us reach out to them with the message the angels shared on that night so long ago; “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. So that they may be blessed too.
Let us pray.
Gracious God. In this season of joy and excitement, help us remember all who toil and suffer. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and courage to act and console. When Jesus came, the angels shared the birth story with those who needed to hear it. Let us do the same with those that you have put in our lives. In Jesus' name, we pray, AMEN.