Prepare to Listen. Light all the Advent candles, including the white one, the symbol of Christ. Set aside what you know about this very familiar story and read it as if for the first time.
Prayerfully Read Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The birth of Jesus Messiah, Savior of the world, couldn’t have been more simply told: “the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger.” Nothing miraculous; nothing unusual; an ordinary, common birth among the poor. As Fred Craddock notes, “Luke has kept the story clean of any decoration that would remove it from the lowly, the poor, the marginal of the earth.” Jesus began life the way he lived it—in solidarity with the poor, weak, marginalized.
Too often we miss the identification with the world’s lowliest, getting sidetracked with the historical details given in the first two verses. Luke mentions two Roman rulers and a decree for all peoples to register. It’s easy to assume Luke was merely setting the historical stage. But this is a mistake. Augustus and Quirinius had no influence on Jesus’ birth. Luke names them to underscore “his basic conviction that emperors, governments, and laws serve the purpose of God, often without knowing it.” The ruling elite were nothing more than instruments of God’s eternal plan.
There are days when I despair at what our political rulers are doing. Jesus’ birth story reminds us that God is still at work, unseen, behind the scenes, using world rulers for God’s purposes. They are instruments, albeit unwittingly, in accomplishing God’s plan.
What was noteworthy this time for you in this story?
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus, as we prepare to celebrate your birth, help us remember that you sided with the least in society and yet controlled the powerful so that God’s will gets done. Amen.
Live obediently. Be like Jesus and side with the weak and lowly.
Fred Craddock. Luke. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press. 1990, p. 35.
Ibid, p. 34.