Is. 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt. 1:1-25 OR Mt. 1:18-25
In "The Velveteen Rabbit," a stuffed rabbit longs to become real through the love of his owner, a young boy. Over time, the rabbit is loved so deeply by the boy that it begins to show signs of wear and tear. Eventually, the boy becomes ill with scarlet fever, and all of his toys, including the Velveteen Rabbit, are to be burned to prevent the spread of the disease. However, the love the rabbit has received transforms it into a real, living rabbit. Similarly, the shepherds in Bethlehem experienced the profound reality of God's love in the birth of Jesus.
In the story, the rabbit becomes real through the boy's deep love, and on this day, Jesus brings us into a real and transformative relationship with God through His love and sacrifice.
The time of Jesus and ours have many similarities. The Bible often recounts stories of war, political strife, and human struggles during Jesus' time. Similarly, we find ourselves living in a world marked by conflict, calamities, and a constant struggle for power, often with a disregard for human values.
Just as the shepherds experienced the presence of Jesus in the manger, we are called to be vessels of God's love and light in a world that often feels shrouded in darkness. Our role today echoes that of the shepherds—being bearers of the good news, embodying the love of Christ in our actions, and allowing others to experience the little Jesus in our hearts. In a world yearning for authenticity and love, let us strive to be real, just as the Velveteen Rabbit became real through love, and as Jesus made God's love real to us on that holy night.
God always works in unexpected ways in our lives. The Christmas story has an unexpected beginning. The story begins with Mary, a young woman, betrothed to Joseph. Surprise and confusion have engulfed Joseph when he learned of Mary's miraculous pregnancy. But Joseph, described as a righteous man, initially planned to dismiss Mary quietly. He responded to the unexpected circumstances with grace and righteousness. His response demonstrates compassion and a desire to protect Mary from public shame.
The angel's message to Joseph transforms fear into hope. The name given to the child, Jesus, carries the promise of salvation. The fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah underscores the significance of Jesus as Emmanuel—God with us. The message of Emmanuel resonates with us today, amidst the challenges and uncertainties we face. In life, God often chooses the unexpected to bring about His divine plans. This unexpected event challenges us to be open to God's work in our lives, even when it doesn't align with our expectations.
Emmanuel is not just a historical truth; it is a present reality. God is with us in our joys, sorrows, triumphs, and challenges. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us remember that the story of Christmas is a story of unexpected grace, mercy, and divine presence. We should, like Joseph, respond to the unexpected in our lives with faith, righteousness, and a willingness to see God's hand at work.
One powerful example from the Bible that illustrates the theme of ordinary individuals touched by extraordinary grace is the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And every Christmas echoes this.
Louis Zamperini, born in 1917, was an Olympic runner and a World War II veteran. His life took a remarkable turn during the war. During a rescue mission, Zamperini's plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, leaving him and two others stranded at sea for a harrowing 47 days. Despite facing extreme thirst, hunger, and shark attacks, Zamperini survived, only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and taken as a prisoner of war.
Enduring brutal treatment and torture in Japanese prison camps, Zamperini faced unimaginable challenges. However, his story takes a transformative turn when, after the war, he found himself consumed by anger and hatred. Struggling to find purpose and peace, he attended a Billy Graham crusade in 1949, where he experienced a profound spiritual transformation.
Louis Zamperini forgave his captors and embraced a life dedicated to spreading a message of hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Zamperini's journey from despair to forgiveness serves as an inspiring example of how grace can transform individuals and lead them to live lives of compassion and purpose.
In Christmas this transformation should take place in all of us. The rabbit's journey teaches us that the most precious gifts are exchanged through acts of kindness, compassion, and love.