About [the time of John's birth] Caesar Augustus ordered a census
to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census
when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel
to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph
went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah.
David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had
to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She
gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in a blanket
and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had
set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood
among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified.
The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a
great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide:
A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is
Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped
in a blanket and lying in a manger."
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing
"Glory to God in the heavenly
Peace to all man and women on earth
who please him."
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked
it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can
and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They
left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying
in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they
met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard
the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself. holding them dear, deep
within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying
and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned
out exactly the way they'd been told!
<The Message >
From the New Interpreter's Bible we hear, "The context
of Jesus' birth, therefore, has thematic and theological significance.
Jesus, the son of David, the bringer of peace was born in Bethlehem,
the city of David. The Savior of all people was born under the
reign of Caesar Augustus, whose peace paled before that announced
by the angels. The Messiah born under Roman oppression, which
was so evident in the forced registration, would overthrow the
powerful and raise up the oppressed. In yet another respect,
therefore, the context of Jesus' birth -- like the annunciations
-- serves as commentary on his future role."
If we move beyond literal birth into the realm of birth from
above and look at our own lives, what do we see from our present
circumstances which will be commentary on our future. If we look
toward the world and our families and communities being places
of more justice and forgiveness, what will people be able to
look back on to see how these elements were latent in late 2001
and flourished later? Is it our financial generosity? Is is our
involvement with some protest movement? Is it coming to realize
our larger heritage? Is it the practice of a particular spiritual
discipline? Is it ....?
May we see today the genesis of tomorrow's healing.
Speaking of genesis, the birth story, per se, in Luke is teeny
-- the time came, the birth occurred, the baby was wrapped. This
is pretty close to "And GOD said, "...."
While spending time connecting Jesus' birth to all of society
from the Emperor to the shepherds, Luke has only the barest-of-bone
stories about the birth itself.
With both of our children having been born at home I know there
is more than this minimalist approach to a birth, any birth.
I also know that decades after those experiences, they have become
rather routine in my mind (except when reviewing the pictures).
How do we hold together the everyday and the heavenly host? How
do we hold together the expected and the unexpected? To birth
these sets of twins into our life's experiences is to prepare
us for decisions needed to be made.
As we go about our daily tasks may we see the ordinary through
the lens of glory and peace. And, having seen, invest our lives
in being Shalom, Shalem, Peace.
R. Alan Culpepper reflects on this passage and says, "God
was born on the road."
Of course, how else could it be. May GOD be born on the road
of your life.
Culpepper goes on to say, "By entering human history in
this way, God identified with the powerless, the oppressed, the
poor, and the homeless. Among them, God could do the divine new
This sounds like a call to action. This sounds like an agenda
for GOD's people. So, the "divine new work" is now
in your hands, and mine. Hooray and Hosanna!
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