Seeing who we are meant to be
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
3 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Are you familiar with the International Crane Foundation? I will be honest with you; until very recently I was not. Cranes are cool birds, but since I don’t run into many here in North Georgia, I had no idea about their value or the fact that they are endangered and in need of conservation. However, they are, and thus the ICF was formed.
As a non-profit The International Crane Foundation is a conservation organization that works to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. Founded in 1973, the International Crane Foundation is headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin on a 250-acre property that includes live crane exhibits with 15 crane species, a visitor center, breeding facilities, a research library and nature trails. The foundation works worldwide and in the US with local partners to raise and conserve cranes. The Foundation maintains a regional base in China and shares program offices with partner organizations in Cambodia, India, South Africa, Texas, Vietnam, and Zambia. The International Crane Foundation's approximately 80 staff work with a network of hundreds of specialists in over 50 countries on five continents.
You may be wondering why I now know this and why I shared it with you. Well I looked it up after reading a fascinating true story recently.
Several years ago, there was a story from the International Crane Foundation about a rare female whooping crane named Tex who for some reason seemed to have an emotional attachment to male humans but not to male cranes. That was a problem, because Tex wouldn’t perform the usual crane mating dance with a male crane, and the birds must dance to become excited enough to produce an egg that will hatch. And having new chicks was important because this particular species of whooping crane is endangered.
Over the years, Tex’s keepers at the foundation had managed get Tex to lay several eggs by means of artificial insemination, but none of them hatched. So finally, they tried another approach.
They used artificial insemination again to impregnate Tex, but this time, the foundation director George Archibald, to whom Tex was strongly attracted, moved into the pen with Tex, and in a way, became a crane — a human “incarnated” as a crane. Several times a day for six weeks, Archibald and Tex did the mating dance together. And eventually Tex produced an egg that hatched, producing a live chick.
Archibald taught Tex how to be the crane she was meant to be.
The Old Testament is full of stories of God sending messages through the Prophets about how to live as God intended us to live when we were created. Of course, it is also the story about how that plan never really worked. Like the New Year’s resolutions which we may make in the coming days—like “to exercise more” or “to eat healthy—the Hebrew Nation’s change was always short lived.
Yet God remained faithful to the Covenantal Promises. Instead of giving up on humanity, God chose to send one to show us how we are meant to live. Jesus, coming to earth, taught us how to be the people God wants us to be.
And I think by having Jesus born to an unwed mother in a barn, laid in a manger, a baby who was a member of an oppressed and occupied people, and a child who would soon become a refugee fleeing from danger, we are in essence told the life Jesus models is available to us all no matter our station.
This is the power of the incarnation. By God becoming flesh and dwelling among us we learn that even if we are from a lowly place such as Bethlehem born into hard circumstances, we are by no means less than others. We are in fact each loved as if we were the only one to love. And we have a calling like the Shepherds and Maji to go and see, and having seen, proclaim the Good News and then to live our lives as followers of the greatest gift ever given!
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.