We rotate the version of the Gospel that’s read each year. I’m so glad this Christmas is a Luke year.
For the uninitiated – there are four Gospels, but only two tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Well, John tells of his arrival, but there are no swaddling clothes, shepherds or the other cast members. In John’s Gospel it’s all very expansive and spiritual and deep.
Not Luke. Luke is much more down to earth. When I read Luke’s version, I’m almost positive I can almost feel the scratchiness of the hay and the warm baby smell mixing with cow patties. Luke lets Matthew (one of the other Gospel writers) go on and on about prophecies and where Jesus fits in the grand scheme of things. Matthew speaks of Kings and visiting dignitaries, and when I read Matthew’s version I hear the angels singing the Hallelujah chorus: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
Not so with Luke. Here we have visiting shepherds (cue the Little Drummer Boy – the version with Bowie and Bing, if you must know). They didn’t follow a star from foreign lands, they were out with their sheep when the angels sang the story.
And the angels! In Matthew – the angel appears to Joseph and in Luke, the angel appears to Mary… Mary who as an unwed mother is perhaps more on the fringe of society than anyone else in the story.
While Matthew booms to the nations that this child is the one the prophets spoke of and that Kings will bow to….Luke tells a story that brings the marginalized (the critters, the shepherds, the women) close to the baby and whispers in their ears that this Peace on Earth is for them.
There are years I’m grateful for Matthew’s version of the story. But this year? This year when we even have to have a discussion about whether Black Lives Matter, this year when we hear of children gunned down in a school (and remember our own sad version of this story), this year as we watched part of Africa fall to Ebola… this year I need to hear Luke. I need to remember the baby born for those marginalized in our world. I need to be present at that manger, and breathe in the smells of the farm and the miraculous smell of newborn hope.
Won’t you join me there?