Our scripture for Christmas Eve is Luke 2:1-20, taken today from the Common English Bible (CEB).

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said,“Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

Angels came down to announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds. These folks were the lowest of the low in Jewish society, only slightly above Samaritans and Gentiles. Yet God invited them first, called them specifically to come and see the newborn king. He wanted them to know they were included.

Later wise and wealthy visitors from far away would come to see Jesus. They were not of the Jewish faith, but God inspired and led them to be included as well. He wanted everyone, rich and poor, residents and foreign, to hear of the coming of the savior.

God calls everyone to the manger, and later to the cross. He wants us to understand the gift we have received and the obligation we accept in Christ. Relationship and responsibility are unbreakably joined in the coming of His kingdom.

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for Your presence through Christ our Lord. Help us to be joyful and aware, gladly performing the tasks You have for us. Amen.

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