The Glory of His Work

Sixth in the Advent/Christmas series, “What Has God Wrought?”

Hebrews 1:1-13 (NRSV)

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son;
   today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be his Father,
   and he will be my Son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
   and his servants flames of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
   and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
   with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”


“In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
   and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
   they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
   and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
   and your years will never end.”

But to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
   until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

God came down. That is the essence of the Christmas story—God came down among us from an infinite place and situation we can barely imagine to save his creation from sin.

It’s a beautiful story. Do you want to hear the Christmas story one more time this Christmas Day? It’s always worth hearing, even if you heard it last night, on Christmas Eve.

The author of our Hebrews text this morning evoked that Christmas story, and he wanted us to remember God came down in all his glory, despite God voluntarily reducing himself to be among us. By glory, we simply mean that his perfect holiness was shining through, even at moments when human beings dulled by sin could not always see the glory.

The Hebrews author reminds us that yes, this Jesus is God among us. Through him, all things were made, an assertion echoed in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Yes, this Jesus is eternal, and life is rooted in him.

Yes, this Jesus is worthy of worship. This expression of God as Son shares the throne in heaven with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, three in one. Even the angels in heaven bow down to the Christ, and when he was born to a human mother in this world, the angels came down, too, visible to shepherds as God’s divine messengers.

God’s glory shines all around us even today. We simply have to remember to look for it, to ask God to remove the scales from our sin-dulled eyes, and the glory is there.

There is the glory of creation. We like to cite creation as evidence of God’s presence here in Ten Mile, particularly when I ask during prayer time where we’ve seen God. There’s nothing wrong with pointing to nature, even though it often continues to be red in tooth and claw. We’re just echoing Romans 1:20:

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”

We see God’s glory in each other, too. You hear people from other religions talk about the “divine spark” within humans. We have notions along those lines in Christianity, too. We know from the creation story that we were made in God’s image, although we quickly became cracked, distorted reflections because of sin.

Jesus came among us to be the perfect reflection, the exact imprint, and when we accept that truth and profess our belief in him as Savior, we begin to do a better job day by day of reflecting God’s glory to others. As Jesus rose from the dead, resurrected, we rise above our own dying each day and are transformed, knowing that we also will be resurrected in full.

In our worship services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Luminary UMC, we have had the joy of taking some of our brothers and sisters through baptisms, confirmations and reaffirmations of faith. We believe the “divine spark” was visible at those moments. As each formally accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we believe the Holy Spirit began to work in the person in new ways.

Who knows what God will do through them? An act of re-creation, I am sure. These new Christians are being remade, just as the world is being remade, and as the church of believers grows, God’s glory should become more evident.

Let’s pause now and once again glorify God.

Like your angels, Lord, we bow our heads to you. We lift our hands and voices in praise. And yes, we even dare to look upon your beauty and majesty, our hearts filled with hope and joy, knowing you accept our praise and rejoin us to you despite our sin.

Inspire us this day with a new sense of your glory. Let us reflect your glory to others, that they may know the truth of who you are, and your kingdom may grow.

Thank you for the birth of Jesus Christ. Thank you for his life perfectly lived, and his perfectly obedient death. Thank you for the glory of the resurrection.

May the hope and glory of Christmas sustain us throughout the year.


The featured image is “Glory of the Newborn Christ,” ceiling painting by Daniel Gran, 1694-1757.

What Is Pleasing to God

Luke 18:9-14 (NRSV)

[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

“God be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is a simple prayer, but it can take a lot of self-awareness to get us to such a place.

In the case of the tax collector, he had to fall low in the eyes of other Jews, and then he had to fully realize what his status meant in relation to God. You may be asking yourself, “Tax collector? What’s wrong with being a tax collector?” Jokes about the IRS aside, being a Jewish tax collector was much different than being an employee of the modern tax system.  In Israel in Jesus’ day, tax collectors were on about the same level in society as prostitutes and lepers.

For all practical purposes, Jewish tax collectors were traitors. They had decided to go to work for the occupying Roman Empire. They had the backing of the Roman army, a lot of flexibility in making assessments, and were known for using their positions to enrich themselves. Being a tax collector was a good way to be rich and hated all at the same time.

Somehow, some way, this particular tax collector in Jesus’ parable had come to regret the man he had become, but his feelings of emptiness and utter rejection were actually to his advantage. God heard his sad, broken, heartfelt prayer and granted him justification, what we might today call salvation.

Contrast the tax collector’s situation with the Pharisee, a legalistically religious man who would have appeared righteous to the world. He pursued God, but he wasn’t meeting God where it mattered, in his mind and heart. Even in his prayers to God, he exalted himself.

Look how holy I am. Look at the good I do. God, when you look at me and compare me to the people nearby, I must stand out! Thanks, God, for making me one of your favorites.

What should be of concern to many of us is that we potentially have more in common with the Pharisee than we do with the tax collector. (If you’re saying, “No, trust me, I’m broken like the tax collector,” at least know that in the upside-down world of salvation, you may be strangely blessed and already way ahead of me in understanding Jesus’ story.)

Those of us who have a veneer of respectability—a title, a position, a public reputation—have to be a little more conscious of our need to surrender to God wholly and fully. We need to seek humility; we need to understand that in the eyes of God, none of us are worthy. To quote Paul in Romans 3, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.”

Short of personal disasters that might wipe out affluence or reputation, we have a more difficult path to open ourselves to God. We have to choose to be vulnerable, a state that normally has very negative connotations.

I first offer you a little exercise in humility. It is no great secret to salvation, but it helps. From time to time, try something you’re not good at doing. I’m practicing yoga, and it’s kind of a sad thing to watch, I’m sure, particularly when I’m in downward dog (think shaky chihuahua) or reclined pigeon (I call it “broken bird”). But not only is it good for me, the struggle keeps me humble.

The challenge you take on doesn’t have to be physical. Just try something you know you’re not good at, struggle to improve—perhaps in vain—and learn to laugh at yourself a little.

We need to go further, too. In prayer, we have to be willing to call ourselves sinners. Because of our sins, we cannot be good enough for God on our own. We never will be. It doesn’t matter what we accumulate in terms of titles, homes, cars or 401Ks. God will not be impressed.

As we remember our sins, we should beat our breasts from time to time, saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” I don’t think God wants us to wallow in our sins, but we certainly need to remember they happened, and perhaps still blush at them a little.

Occasionally focusing on our inabilities and sins helps us remember how much we need God. He is perfect, we are not. It is foolish to approach God like we are somehow equal to him.

And when we get there—when we truly humble ourselves—we are much better equipped to understand what a great gift we have been given in Jesus Christ.

God owed us nothing, we owed him everything, and through sin we created a debt we could never repay. And yet, God came. God came for the undeserving, the broken, the lost.

We are no better than prostitutes, criminals, or traitorous tax collectors. Isn’t it strange that once we accept that truth, we are made ready for eternity with God.

The featured image, “Biblical Illustration of Gospel of Luke Chapter 18,” is by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, Texas, 1984.

What Perplexes Angels

Luke 24:1-12

In Luke’s version of the discovery of Christ’s resurrection, there are two “men” waiting at the tomb to announce that Christ has risen from the dead. I place “men” in quotation marks for a reason.

Luke also writes of their “dazzling” clothing and the stunned response of the women at the tomb. In describing their clothing, Luke uses the same Greek word here that he earlier used in 17:24 to describe a flash of lightning. Clearly, he wants us to understand that these “men” are angels.

When I hear this story, I wonder if angels find humans perplexing. Along with announcing the resurrection, these two angels find themselves called to restate what Jesus had already said several times. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

As the women ran back to tell the others, did one angel look at the other and say, “What did they expect?”

One of the angels could have noted the humans had hundreds of years of prophecy to guide them toward an understanding of what must happen to the Christ. For example, these Israelites would have repeatedly heard the words of Isaiah 53:10: “When his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

And then there are all those Psalms—16:10, for example. “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

“But that prophecy stuff is pretty vague for sin-cloaked humans,” the second angel might have countered. “They don’t see God the way we do.”

“Okay,” I imagine the first angel saying. “But then Jesus came along and performed all those miracles to demonstrate who he is. And then he said who he is. And then he told them again and again that he must die in Jerusalem and be raised from the dead.

“What did they expect? Did they think they would actually find his decaying body this morning?”

I also wonder whether angels find us perplexing in our modern day. First of all, reports of Jesus’ resurrection are widely available, in all four gospels and other New Testament writings. His resurrection is the centerpiece of history, shaping Western civilization. The power of this truth to spread globally is evidence something miraculous is happening.

Second, Jesus made promises that go far beyond his personal resurrection. He has promised that a day is coming when he will return, and his resurrection will then be ours, leading to eternal life or eternal punishment. “Stay dressed for action,” Jesus says in Luke 12:35.

Angels certainly must expect those of us who call ourselves Christian to take such an admonition seriously. And when we lapse into the short-sighted lifestyles we often lead today—lifestyles of hoarding and self interest, of lewdness and meanness—we must seem strange to heaven.

Easter is our chance to adjust our perspective, to see the big picture and make the truth of the resurrection a part of everything we do. With the Holy Spirit’s help, perhaps we can even see the world with the eyes of the angels.

Let It Be with Me

Cranach, "Madonna Under the Fir Tree," 1510, public domain

Cranach, “Madonna Under the Fir Tree,” 1510, public domain

The mother of Jesus should fascinate us. I know Protestants sometime feel Roman Catholics go too far in their devotion to Mary, but in our reaction to that devotion, we can fail to pause and really appreciate Mary.

Mary is perhaps the most important mere human to have ever lived. (I say “mere” human to take Jesus, who was in some mysterious way both fully human and fully divine, out of contention.) After all, Mary was the “favored one,” the first chapter of Luke’s gospel tells us. God found Mary worthy to carry the Messiah, God in flesh, in her womb. Jesus’ devotion to and love for her was evident even as he hung dying on a cross.

So, what made Mary so special?

Earlier, when I described her as perhaps the most important human to have ever lived, some of you may have flinched a little. Did you begin to run other possible candidates through your mind: biblical characters like Abraham or Moses, or John the Baptist, or great historic figures?

If you did so, consider whether you’re attaching worldly standards to the word “important.” God’s standards are different from worldly standards; humility and unwavering faith would seem to top the divine list, and Mary seems to have been full of both. In addition, God asked Mary to take on an astonishing task, one many older women would resist. She responded with one childlike question about process, and then made a simple statement, “Let it be with me.”

Oh, and we shouldn’t forget bravery. Stoning was the punishment of the day for a poor, unwed pregnant girl, which is how her neighbors would have viewed Mary. To follow God while facing such dire circumstances required a heart wide-open to God’s will, one willing to disregard the potential personal cost.

God chose Mary, it seems, because she had the right soul for the task. She was young, perhaps as young as 13 or 14, but Luke 1:46-55 records her remarkable understanding of the meaning of Christ’s coming.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant,” Mary said. She was rejoicing with her much older cousin Elizabeth, who carried in her womb John the Baptist, the prophet who would announce the coming of Jesus’ ministry in adulthood.

As Mary continued in her prophetic rejoicing, she laid out the radical mission of Christ. He brings mercy to those who believe and follow God. He scatters the proud. He brings down the powerful. He lifts up the lowly and the hungry. He does all of this as a fulfillment of a promise made to the world through Abraham long ago.

And of course, we now understand that Jesus grew up to accomplish this radical realignment of power through his death on the cross, a sacrifice designed to break the grip of sin.

Governments and armies still seem to have power, but none can help us establish a relationship with God. At best, they can keep the relationship freely available.

Mary’s song also calls us to magnify the Lord, regardless of our ability to carry children. The baby in her womb would reveal God’s nature to all. As the body of Christ on earth today, Christians similarly exhibit God’s Spirit to a hurting world.

And while this task requires humility and faith, it also makes us revolutionaries, like the quiet, demure Mary who suddenly sang of a world to be turned upside down.

The great Scottish theologian William Barclay noted that Mary’s song declares three great “revolutions” that her child would spark in the world.

First, God “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.” That is a moral revolution, Barclay noted, bringing about the death of pride. People cannot compare their lives to Christ’s and remain convinced they are somehow superior creatures.

Second, Mary sang that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” That, Barclay said, is a social revolution.

If we are to magnify God, we ignore labels used to sort people as important or unimportant. In every face, the Christian sees God’s creation. In every person, a Christian sees a life potentially made whole by Christ.

Third, Mary tells us that the hungry are filled and the rich are sent away empty. Barclay called this part of the song a declaration of an economic revolution.

“A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get,” Barclay wrote. “A Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away.”

Oh, to magnify the Lord in every moment of our lives, to allow revolution to occur in every choice we make. It isn’t easy, of course.

Fortunately, the baby who grew to be a man and live out his mother’s prophecies did not shrink from the difficult task of the cross. May God grant us similar courage in this season; may we learn to say, “Let it be with me.”

Grateful to the End

Luke 17:11-19

The lack of gratitude shown by nine of ten lepers remains astonishing. As I’m sure many of you know, lepers were complete outcasts, the walking dead of their day.

They could have been suffering any of a host of skin diseases. There was the modern-day leprosy, now known more formally as Hansen’s Disease, a bacterial infection that in Jesus’ day led to large lesions all over the body. Other skin diseases like eczema or psoriasis could get you labeled a leper, too.

And once you were diagnosed as such, you were to keep your distance from everyone else. The Mosaic law didn’t prescribe a precise distance, but some rabbis thought about 50 yards, half the length of a football field, to be acceptable.

That’s why lepers lived and traveled in groups. The only meaningful human contact they could have was with each other.

As we’ve seen in our gospel story today, one of these groups encountered Jesus, humbly cried out for healing, and received the sought blessing. The healing happened as the lepers made their way toward the priests who would declare them clean. But only one, seeing the healing, returned to thank his healer. Oddly enough, he was a Samaritan, a man considered by the Jews to be unholy simply because of his birth.

And just in case we wonder whether God really expects gratitude from us, God Among Us, God in Flesh, Jesus, commented rather directly on the situation. “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Consider the healing they had received. It was more than just physical. They were restored in many other ways.

They were restored to family. Some of them may not have been able to draw closer than shouting distance to family for years. The close embrace of spouse and children likely was returned to at least some of these lepers. For the ones who did not have such relationships before going into exile, the promise of such happiness now was in their futures.

They were restored to community and all its benefits, including the ability to worship with others, earn a living, and benefit from the protection offered by the larger group.

They also were affirmed in a kind of righteousness many people would have assumed they lacked. One of the subtleties of the laws surrounding leprosy was that the isolation imposed on lepers had little to do with community fear of cross-infection. There’s a lot of evidence lepers weren’t always forced out right away—for example, people suspected of having leprosy might have been allowed to complete a scheduled marriage or stick around for the holy days before being formally inspected by a priest and declared unclean.

In other words, in Jesus’ non-scientific time, skin diseases were seen as being a direct result of sin. The sinner had been marked. If you were healed, you were seen as being back in God’s good graces.

Healing from such an affliction was a big deal, a life-changing event, one worthy of deep gratitude. In the grand sweep of Jesus’ ministry, though, the healing of the lepers was a relatively minor miracle.

We have all been healed in far greater ways. It is a healing offered to everyone and accepted by many. Here’s a classic Bible verse every Christian should know: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

Left to steep in sin, we would rot away to nothing, vanishing from the sight of God. Whatever hell is like, it is nothing but despair. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, however, we are rescued and restored.

From the moment we turn to Jesus and cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” we see our healing begin. As we walk through life, the lesions of eternal death fade. Even though we may face a temporal death, we know we are walking toward eternal life.

And yet, do we return to give appropriate thanks? Do we rush to the places where God expects to find us?

Are we in worship as often as we can? Surely an eternal healing requires a regular routine of thanks and praise.

Do we thank God by responding fully to the calls he has placed on us, calls to discipleship and service to others? Surely the gift of eternal life calls for extreme dedication of this worldly life to God’s mission.

It is easy to take our healing and simply walk back to life as it was before. It is easy, but it is not right.

What Went Up

When we think of what Jesus accomplished for our benefit, the concept of his ascension into heaven often vanishes behind the darkness of his crucifixion or the brilliant life-giving light of his resurrection.

The ascension is a critically important part of our salvation, however. In many ways, it completes the work done by God in the crucifixion and resurrection.

The key to understanding the ascension is to comprehend what is carried up.

Luke, a companion of the Apostle Paul, gives us accounts of the ascension in the end of the gospel of Luke and the beginning of the book of Acts. After appearing repeatedly to his followers in his resurrected form, Jesus led them about two miles outside Jerusalem to Bethany.

He then did several important things: He opened their minds to understand the Jewish Scriptures, in particular how they predicted Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He told his followers they would spread throughout the world the good news that salvation is available. He promised them the Holy Spirit would come to empower and support them.

And then the ascension happened. It’s described a bit mysteriously; in Luke, Jesus “withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” In Acts, we get a little more detail, where we learn “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

The point is that Jesus physically left this world and entered the realm of the holy, God’s abode, the place where only things unstained by sin can go.

Later in Acts, the first martyr, Stephen, cried out shortly before being stoned to death, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” From this we see that the earliest Christians understood that after the ascension, Jesus resumed his role as part of what theologians sometimes call the “Godhead,” God in all of his aspects.

 I know these ideas are theologically “heavy,” perhaps even painfully so. God expects Christians to think a little, though.

So, why does it matter that Jesus went “up”? Well, it matters because of what Jesus took with him—his resurrected human body. Human flesh now exists as part of the Godhead, a strange change in the nature of heaven. What was unacceptable anywhere near the throne is now on the throne.

And that is why salvation is now so easy for us, if we will only believe that Jesus died to free us from punishment for our sins. When we appeal to God, we are appealing to the one who loves us so much that he made himself like us in order to save us.

I also should point out that the ascension left something of a void. For a brief time, humanity was again separated from the full presence of God. But then, just as Jesus had promised, something came down, another aspect of God, the Holy Spirit.

That’s an event we celebrate next Sunday, which is Pentecost.

Expect a Miracle

First in an Advent Series, “A Different Kind of Christmas”

I cannot think of a better way to begin Advent than by talking about miracles. The Jews waited centuries for a Messiah. We as followers of Jesus Christ have waited centuries for the Messiah’s return.

During Advent, we remember those waits. And in our waiting, we’ve been expecting not just a miracle, but the ultimate miracle.

It helps to remember the definition of what a miracle is. In an age where many people don’t believe in or expect miracles, our lack of seriousness about such events can cause us to use the word loosely. For example, we may call merely improbable events like a game-ending 60-yard touchdown pass “miraculous.”

True miracles go beyond the improbable, however. They are the result of God intervening directly in the world to change what otherwise would happen. When a miracle happens, the laws of physics or biology seem suspended. The math surrounding the event may not make sense.

During Advent, we often turn to the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. The promise of miracles abounds there, at a time when the divided Jewish people really had little reason to expect God would ever intervene on their behalf.

There is the sign given King Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14, a sign “deep as Sheol” and “high as heaven”: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Later, in Isaiah 9:2-7, we again hear of one to come, a man who will restore justice and righteousness for all time, a savior described as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In other words, despite the sin and disobedience in the world, God promised to intervene. The natural result of disobedience to our creator was death; the miraculous result of God’s intervention on our behalf is eternal life.

The core of Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is the Great Intervenor, God coming among us in the flesh. His life on earth was a non-stop miracle lasting more than three decades, and he did not hesitate to claim this for himself.

Early in his ministry, Jesus went to the town where he had grown up, Nazareth, and shocked the people who had known him most of his life by saying he had come to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah. Specifically, he read the first part of Isaiah 61, which speaks of the Messiah’s focus on the lost, the poor, the people most in need. I find it interesting in Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus stopped short in reading the prophecy, deliberately avoiding “vengeance” language, instead focusing on words of grace and mercy.

He then startled them with a remarkable claim: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

At first, his audience was pleased—they had heard of his early signs of power, and they most likely were excited that great events were finally going to be associated with their tiny, unimportant village. As Jesus went on, however, they became angry.

Jesus made it clear that he did not expect them to fully recognize the miracle before them, noting “no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” He then began to hint that the miracle he brought would be even more expansive than the work of the prophet Elijah, who often shared God’s grace with non-Jews. The miracle of Jesus, the miracle of the cross and the resurrection, also would be an event to be shared far beyond the bounds of Judaism and Israel.

Hearing this, the people of Nazareth ran Jesus out of town.

This story points us to the real problem with seeing miracles, with even understanding how to expect them. We have difficulty thinking big the way God thinks big. Jesus was talking to people who had been raised on the idea of a big miracle, a big intervention by God in their history. But the intervention proved to be so big, so unbelievably full of grace, that they could not grasp it, despite centuries of preparation for the moment.

That brings us to what I see as the crux of our 2012 Advent season. As we prepare for Christmas, I want you to ponder a simple question: Are we expecting a miracle? I don’t mean a mere glimpse of God. I mean a really, really big miracle, something that will remind us that God continues to intervene in this world today.

When we consider what we believe Jesus has done, and when we consider Jesus’ love for the least and lost in the world, how we approach Christmas should be very different from the way we’re encouraged by society to mark it.

Society gives us Santa Claus and Black Friday shopping. Christ gives us eternal relief from death and promises this relief is available for all, regardless of who they are, where they are, or how important or unimportant they may be by worldly standards.

In the next few weeks, it is my prayer that our expectations regarding a miracle will actually change how we see Christmas and what we choose to emphasize as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.