Now what? Don’t you think that’s the question that the shepherds and wise men asked themselves the day after Christmas? The day before, the shepherds heard the angels. The day before, the wise men followed the star. The day before, they beheld the Babe born in Bethlehem. After that: the shepherds, Luke tells us, “returned [I guess to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen (2:20).” After that; after sharing their gifts, the wise men, Matthew tells us, “left for their country by another way (2:12).” But after that; after the shepherds had gone back to work; after the wise men had gone back home surely they began to ask themselves: Now what? What do we do now that we know the Messiah is in our midst? What do we do – what do you and I do – now that we know the Messiah has entered human history and our hearts? Now what? What do we do now?
The historian Steven Ambrose states that all of the 20th century pivoted around one, crucial day: June 6, 1944. Ambrose says that the first half of the century lead up to that day – and the second half of the century unfolded was a consequence of that day. June 6, 1944 was D-Day: The day in World War II when the Allies landed at Normandy to liberate Europe from the tyranny of Nazi rule and the evil of Adolph Hitler. Everything pivoted around that central event.
In the same way, but in a larger sense, all of human history pivots around one, crucial event when another invading force landed to free us all. Bethlehem was the beachhead where God entered human history to save it and us from the tyranny of sin and death.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic: An alien invader has arrived, permanently changing our world, upending the established order of life by bringing death. Just like the coronavirus, but in complete reverse, the Christ, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth arrived, permanently changing our world, upending the established order of death by bringing life. Now, we need to live into that reality and make it our own – just as Christ Jesus has made us his own.
I never fought in World War II, but I enjoy the victory of that struggle which others fought on my behalf. I enjoy freedom. We live in a democracy; not a fascist state because of the sacrifice others made for us. While Jesus’ way is one of peace and while his is the way of non-violence, in a very real sense Jesus arrived to go to war on our behalf. He fought and won the battle, which we could never win to set us free. From Bethlehem to Calvary; by the whole course of his obedience, Jesus fulfilled the law, which we could never keep. Jesus gave us the salvation, which we could never earn. Jesus opened the way to Life, which we could never live. Jesus reconciled us to God, who we could never see. But now we see God clearly in the face of Jesus, who is our brother, Redeemer, Savior, and King.
Now what? Now we follow him. We make his ways our ways. It’s not rocket science. Following Jesus means going where he goes and doing what he does. Jesus went to those who were least, last, and lost. That’s where we need to go – and that’s who we need to love. Jesus blessed, healed, forgave, shared, and loved. That’s what we are to do as well.
Soon the world will be done with Christmas. Valentine’s Day gifts are being stocked on store shelves as we speak. Soon dry, brittle Christmas trees will be kicked to the curb. Tossed out with all the other holiday trash. Christmas is so yesterday.
But not for us. Christmas is always today; always beginning; always and forever here and now. Bethlehem’s star still shines. Let’s follow its light. Christ the Lord is still being born in human hearts. Let’s share his love. The Messiah is here. Let us incarnate his goodness and extend his peace. As we do, we shall come alive and we shall be free.