“In those days.” We hear those words and it conjures up the beginning of a story from the past. Many of our personal and family stories could begin that way. In those days, grandma and grandpa were still here and grandma always made us special cookies. In those days, we were so poor that we got fruit one year in our stockings. In those days, we had energy and could go to a Christmas party a night and not tire. In those days, we didn’t worry about aging, global warming, terrorism, church decline or any of the other modern chaos. In those days, we didn’t have the medical technology that would have kept grandma healthier longer. In those days, we didn’t have nearly all of the luxuries that we do today. In those days, the economy was bad, or in those days the economy was good. In those days, we had less fear. In those days we had less anxiety. In those days, those were the days.
We can get stuck in the past. We can hang on to the nostalgia of what used to be and compare it to how it is this day. This day never seems quite as shiny or satisfying as “in those days.” It seems that this day has only has fear, uncertainty and anxiety. In those days, we knew what was what. We could count on social security, family, health, or wherever we found our certainty. In those days.
Our story of the birth of Jesus begins with the words, “in those days” and we can let those words lead us to believe that this story is about what happened a long time ago and life was different, life was simpler, life was predictable. In those days, when that decree went out from Emperor Augustus and we had to go to Bethlehem even though I was 9 months pregnant? Remember how we traveled? Remember those days? It’s easy to romanticize this story of Jesus’ birth in a particular place and time and it’s easy to chalk it up to something that happened two thousand years ago but doesn’t have any relevance for us today. It’s nice story for us to hear about a new baby, young parents and peaceful, silent night. It is a story about an event that happened “in those days,” but it also so much more.
The story that opens with “in those days,” quickly moves to what is happening on “this day.” On “this day” the angel said, a savior is born. The long awaited messiah has arrived. This is the day! Whatever happened “in those days” is now transformed because of this day! This day God has come to us. This day God walks among us. This day your salvation has come. This day, this story, this baby, is not about the past at all but the present and the future. This day, God’s promises for forgiveness, grace and hope are real among us. God promises to break into the world in unlikely places each and every day-not just one time in the past, “in those days,” but today-right here right now where we are least looking!
The first to hear this good news were shepherds, lowly stinky shepherds, who were out in their fields with the sheep because they didn’t even rank high enough to be counted in the census. No one cared if they were included in kingdom or not. But to God, they counted. On this day, God proclaimed that no one is too lowly or unimportant for God’s kingdom. On this day, all people and all creation counts in God’s kingdom. On this day, God revealed where love had entered into the world. This day God gave a sign that “in those days” were gone and there is only “this day” of love, grace and hope from “this day” forward.
The shepherds were the first to discover that this is a different kind of king and a different kind of kingdom. Instead of a palace, a barn. Instead of a throne or fancy bassinet, a manger where animals ate. Instead of a parade or a coronation, angels with music to a few outsiders. Instead of family with useful gifts, the shepherds who only brought with them their story of what God was doing in the world. This new kingdom that arrived on this day, proclaimed that what the world knew of power, authority and community was being made new. Power now looked like a new baby, authority now looked like love, and community now looked like all people-shepherds, teenage mothers, carpenters, refugees, innkeepers, you and me.
This king came to serve, love and gather all to the source of not just this day, but all of our days. This day a savior has been born, and this day points us to the cross and the empty tomb with the promise of God declaring power over death. This day Jesus comes to us in the bread and in the wine to declare God’s promise to over and over offer grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope to all people.
This day two thousand years ago, transforms this day, here and now. God takes all of in those days, and proclaims “Don’t miss what I am doing this day! Don’t get stuck in the past!” This day we don’t have to fear because God is with us. This day we know that God walks with us in our grief and sorrow. This day we know that God rejoices with us. This day we celebrate that no matter what we say or do this day, God promises to transform our hearts, minds and souls for tomorrow so that when “this day” arrives again, we get another day of living and sharing in the love and peace of Jesus Christ. With the angels and the shepherds we tell the whole world what we have heard, the good news of what God is doing this day to all who can hear, for this day, and every day now and forever, God lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry, and brings peace, love and hope through Jesus Christ. This day is the day that the whole world is waiting to hear: a savior is born. Amen.