And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Matthew 22:39

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem…and fell among thieves….a priest….when he saw him passed by on the other side…”  Luke 1o:30,31

“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us…..”  John 1:14

There are many stories that often come to mind when we (or at least I) think about Christmas; the choir of angels, the Magi, the star, and the manger, just to name a few.  However, at first glance, until I thought about, I would not have added the parable of the Good Samaritan as one of them.  Yet upon further reflection, I’ve come to feel that it is a perfect story to illustrate an aspect of what Christ’s mission to earth was all about.

Let me explain.  We all probably know the overall story well; however, there are some particular facets of the story I would like to highlight.  It starts with a man coming from Jerusalem heading for Jericho.  While the parable doesn’t specifically state this, it is inferred that this man was of the Jewish faith.  We get the sense that this was a man whom, until unfortunate events befall him, probably a priest or a Levite would have been glad to talk to or have been seen with. But then the world intervenes, for this traveling man, through no fault of his own, is robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead.  Now mind you he is not dumped into a ditch or tossed behind some trees.  No, he left out, next to the road in plain site.  So it is that this man, who would have been seen as upstanding in any other circumstances, had become messy.  He was messy and his situation was messy.  So messy in fact that a priest sees him and actually crosses the road to pass him by.  Likewise, a Levite, a devout member of the tribe set aside by God to serve God and His people, also passes by without offering one inkling of help or hope.  They won’t get involved.

Then enters the Samaritan.  Now understand the Samaritan has no business helping a Jew.  The Jews despised the Samaritans thinking they were a low and fallen people.  No upstanding Jew would have anything to do with a Samaritan.  However this Samaritan, coming upon the scene doesn’t pass to the other side, does not see a mess to be avoided but sees a human being in great trouble, in terrible need.  With a great sense of selflessness and compassion the Samaritan treats the broken man’s wounds with his own costly oil and wine.  He puts the injured man on his own donkey and he walks so that the man can ride.  He brings him to an inn and continues to minister to the injured man and then pays the innkeeper a considerable sum and even promises more to continue to care for the man until he is returned to health.  Finally understand this, the Samaritan continues on his journey, he was not expecting repayment or reward from this man.  The Samaritan had practiced a messy, radical type of love.

The context of this story is also very important to understand.  As Luke tells us, the whole story comes about because first a lawyer, sent by the council was trying to put Jesus to a test.  He asks Jesus how does one obtain eternal life.  When Jesus turns it back on the lawyer by asking him what does the law say; the lawyer recites those two greatest commandments, about loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.  But the lawyer isn’t done, to test Jesus more and justify himself, the lawyer asks the question that echoes down to us this very day: “And who is my neighbor?”  In essence who is it really that I’m supposed to love like myself?

Here’swhere I see the direct connection to Christmas.  You see, John tells us in his gospel that Jesus was there with God, indeed was God from the very beginning.  Until coming to earth, Jesus existence was perfect; he knew no pain, no hunger or sorrow.  Yet Jesus looked from heaven and He saw messy.  He saw a broken world beset with evil after evil, people wounded, stripped and robbed of their humanity.  Jesus could have passed by, He could have stayed in heaven.  Instead, Jesus decided to get messy.  Following His Heavenly Father’s plan, He came to us and bound our wounds.  He poured out His very blood and flesh to make us whole.  He placed us on His shoulders to carry us when we can go no further and when it came to paying the price; the price for our salvation, Jesus gladly paid it in full on the cross.

This Christmas, Jesus Christ is asking us:  Are we looking to get messy?  Are we looking for those who may be in our own families, our own congregations but equally as much or even more so, are we looking to those out in the world who are broken, stripped of dignity and passed by and left behind by everyone else in the world? Even if that person wants nothing to do with us are we willing to do whatever we can for them? When we think, at this time of year, of the present of love that Jesus Christ gives to us by coming here to be with us, are we willing to gladly share that love with others?  That messy, radical, overwhelming love is what Christmas is all about.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are filled with joy and praise as we consider the gift of Jesus, God who came to live among us.  We can not begin to understand the depth of sacrifice that leaving Your Side and sojourning with us must have been.  Fill us with Your Spirit that we would long to emulate that example as we reach out to those in this world who are messy, broken, left behind.  That by following the example of Christ we will be living lives of honor, glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen