Today is Winter Solstace: the shortest, darkest day of the Year.
Isn't it interesting that Jesus' birth is celebrated in the same week? I keep thinking about how dark the world was when Jesus was born. It was filled with oppression, violence, injustice, and judgment.
The Jews, God's chosen people, were desperate. They hadn't heard from God for over 400 years. They were trying their best to "earn" back God's love and presence by creating endless laws that only kept them frustrated and divided.
Mary and Joseph were experiencing their own darkness. They had to travel to their ancestor's birth place to register their existance. They were most likely being rejected by their families because of the shame of Mary's pregnancy and Joseph's willingness to stand by her. They were alone, and I think, lonely when they realized that there was no where for them to stay after a brutally long ride into Bethlehem.
I think that the first sounds they heard when they entered Bethlehem was the sound of sheep. Bethlehem's main industry was to grow sheep for the temple sacrifices. It's not a coincidence that they ended up delivering their baby amidst a stable full of sheep.
And, who were the first to hear of the child's birth? Shepherds. Those that were shunned by their culture, but were invited to into the earthly throne room which held the King: the One who is the light and life of all humanity.
Imagine. A man and a woman; alone and shamed, ready to deliver a baby that dramatically changed their lives, hopes and dreams.
Shepherds: out in the night guarding the sheep, feeling rejected and dishonored, for their lowly profession.
Bethlehem: a small town outside of Jerusalem, which missed the biggest event of its history because it didn't open its doors to the man and woman who carried the light of the world for all time.
Galatians 4:3-5 tells us that "So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as beloved children."
It was at the appointed moment, that all the circumstances of the dark world, came together and a baby burst through a mother's body to become "the Sacrificial Lamb of God."
When the baby burst through in a stable, the angels burst through and lit up the sky, to announce to the shepherds tending sheep designated for sacrifice, that everything had changed.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The darkest day of the year suddenly became a whole lot brighter!