We are making ready our hearts to receive the Christ Child.

Well, not really. Like the innkeeper, we have no room. There are already too many people in our house and who has time to set up a nursery?

Instead, many of us are knee deep in wrapping paper, bows and tape, the result of last-minute shopping. No judgement and, in exchange, you have to go along with me. It will be your Christmas gift to me, which I will assume was lost in the mail.

If you are following the lectionary, then Luke tells us that Emperor Augustus is counting heads (2:1-20), but we, amid COVID-19 and its variants, are counting the dead.

We are trying to keep up and to show up where we are expected to be. Everything seems urgent, time sensitive and yet, we are guilty of forgetting the day of the week.

But then we remember Mary, scared and needing to keep Jesus in while feeling the urge to push him out. Swollen ankles, it hurts to walk with him now. There is the threat of death if he be found with her.

Don’t scream. Breathe. Save your strength, Mary. We will need it to get him out into the world.

The long walk to be registered may have triggered her birthing pains. While in Bethlehem, she goes into labor and their family will go from two to three.

Jesus’ story is not for germophobes. Dirt floor and animals, no plastic gloves or alcohol wipes, not even close to perfect conditions, still Jesus comes into the world.

It wasn’t a “silent night.” Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs.

She is pushing and Joseph is pulling. “Get him out!” Jesus and his “kin-dom” are coming. Don’t believe those Hallmark cards; the scene is not pretty.

Don’t believe politicians who use his baby picture to warm your heart and win your vote either. Jesus comes to fulfill prophecies — not campaign promises. His “kin-dom” is not to be confused with a new political administration. Don’t believe Herod; he doesn’t want to kiss Jesus.

Isaiah declares, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us, authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NRSV).

Jesus comes not as a member of the ruling class but as a relative. Surprise! God is with us.

Frederick Buechner said, “If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within ourselves and within our world.”

While we look around, Luke says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is’” (17:20-21a, NRSV)!

Luke points a finger and says, “The kingdom of God is among us” (17:21b, NRSV). It’s already here. We just need eyes to see it.

But you don’t have to look hard; the differences should be obvious. Jesus is not Joseph Jr. Jesus doesn’t have his eyes, nose or dimpled chin. Jesus is not his spitting image. Still, he will be just like his Father.

“It’s a boy!” But don’t tell Herod.

Sure, we celebrate Jesus and come bearing gifts now. Anthems raised; we sing his praises. We clear our calendars and cram the highways for him now. It’s a family affair.

Angels and wisemen, prophecies, signs and wonders, this is not just a good story with plot twists and a happy ending. This is a story to be told until all of humanity gathers around to look at this little baby.

Luke’s arms are tired, so he wants to pass him on. He leans over and writes to Theophilus. Because there are never too many stories about Jesus. Luke says there is room for one more testimony; the more, the merrier.

This is the gospel of Jesus the Christ according to Luke and it bears repeating. Because sometimes Jesus’ story gets wrapped with patriarchy and misogyny.

Americanized Christianity looks like Christian nationalism with a bow on it. Jesus’ face gets taped to race and its progeny.

For all that he is linked to, Jesus is tied first to an umbilical cord. He has a family, which makes them our family too. So, pass around Mary’s baby, Joseph’s stepson.

God is with us, kicking and cooing or crying, in need a diaper change or a nap.

Either way, Luke hands him off to us, and I’ve talked long enough. Are you ready to hold him?

Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series for Advent 2021. The previous articles in the series are:

Advent Lectionary | Hope, the Thing With Feathers | Kelly Belcher

Advent Lectionary | The Earliest Soundtrack | Richard Wilson

Advent Lectionary | Let Your Joy Be Known | Alyssa Aldape

Advent Lectionary |Why Mary Did, in Fact, Know | Justin Sizemore

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