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Saturday, February 13, 2016
Today’s Reading | Luke 2:1–20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, 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, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (NRSV)
We are currently in a season of anticipation. We wait for weeks and weeks and, before we know it, the day is here.
Most of us dread it, stress about it, or just find it inconvenient—and, if you are like me, you might put it off until the last minute.
In this passage from Luke, the Roman Empire is right in the middle of its own “tax season.”
In the ancient world a “registration” was an opportunity for the government to take stock and severely tax its citizens. But unlike our whiny dislike for paperwork, the ancient process wasn't merely a minor stress or inconvenience. For the people living under Roman rule—particularly the Jews—it was a harsh reminder of who was in charge. Some people, like Mary and Joseph, kept their heads down and peacefully complied; others didn’t—revolts were common.
And this is the world Jesus entered. Tense. Hostile. Hopeless. The scene at the manger is peaceful—the world outside is not. This child, this “great joy for all the people,” brings a promise of relief from feelings of fear and powerlessness. It was a reminder, for everyone, that oppression and violence don’t have the last word.
It means the same for us today. It means that when we feel hopeless, we can trust and find comfort in the promise that Jesus brought into the world. But it also means that if we want to be and live like Christ, we must also, like Jesus, become a source of “good news and great joy” for the oppressed and powerless of the world—both in word and action.
God, give us the strength to be a source of hope and love—as the church, as a community, and as individuals. Help us follow your example of bringing light into the darkness. Amen.
Written by Jeremy Pfaff, Editorial Assistant
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