We could be forgiven for not understanding the miracle that has just taken place among us. After all, in terms of what we understand of religion in general - and even of Judeo-Christian history - it is fairly (perhaps) unique.
You see, one of the ways that we most commonly think about our faith is in terms of our own journey toward it. We talk about how it is that we came to God. And if we're being honest, that was kind of how Judaism was set up to begin with.
For thousands of years, the Jews had to prove their lineage. They had to demonstrate where they came from and trace their faithfulness all the way back to Abraham, all the way back to the fathers of the faith. When Israel came back from exile, there was some question as to whether some of the men who called themselves priests actually were and whether they could be proven to be descendants of Aaron or Levi. Men who wanted to serve, who wanted from the depths of their heart to be part of worshiping the Lord, were set aside until they could trace their family histories sufficiently back and prove themselves.
And not just priests and Levites. There were men in the general population of Israel who wanted to claim Judaism, but they had to first show that their fathers were Jews. And their fathers. And their fathers. In fact, one of the claims against Samaritans (who we know so well were hated by first-century Jews) was that they were "half-breeds;" their family histories could not show them to be thoroughly, 100% God's people.
This struck me as I was reading very late in the New Testament here recently, where the Bible was talking about this sort of thing again. (I'm pretty sure I was in Hebrews.) And it struck me that this is exactly the kind of thing that Paul liked to talk about, too. Remember how he liked to say that if there were any qualifications to being God's people, he - Paul - had them? A Jew of Jews, a Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a member of the synagogue, righteous in the obedience of the law, circumcised in the flesh, and on and on and on he went. What Paul was saying was, "If you want to trace my history back to God, you'll find Him. He's there. I'm legit."
But every time, Paul says it's not as legitimate as we want to think that it is. Because what Paul says is what the miracle of Christmas reminds us - that it's not about whether or not we can trace our history back to Jesus.
It's about a Jesus who wrote His history toward us.
It's about a Jesus who made His way to where we are. It's about a God who has come to us. It's about Immanuel, God with us.
That's what this passage I was reading in Hebrews was saying, too - that we don't have to trace our lineage back to God any more. Because Jesus Christ has come, He has traced His way to us. That means that we get to start at the Cross and work our way forward - together. We don't have to crawl our way back to the Temple and beg entry; we stand up and walk out toward Calvary and there is room for all. We stand up and journey toward the manger because it is not we who have come to God, but God who has come to us.
That's the miracle of Christmas and the new reality that we wake up to this morning.