Those days were just like any other: with people working to put food on the table before falling into an exhausted, restless sleep; with sunrise to sunset filled with much trivial talk, rumor, and gossip, and a few deep words; with moments of holiness and beauty, if you knew where to look for them; and signs of oppression and degradation, everywhere you looked.
Luke 2:1-20 December 24, 2021
Dr. Todd R. Wright Those days were just like any other: with people working to put food on the table before falling into an exhausted, restless sleep; with sunrise to sunset filled with much trivial talk, rumor, and gossip, and a few deep words; with moments of holiness and beauty, if you knew where to look for them; and signs of oppression and degradation, everywhere you looked.
We’ve known seasons like that: when every day is a grind; when you do what you do by force of habit and willpower, or because you have no choice; when your prayers are more “help me” than “thank you”, and seldom reach “wow!; and the calendar says you are progressing through the year, but it seems like you’re stuck.
“In those days,” Luke says, “a decree went out from Emperor Augustus …” and suddenly everything was thrown into chaos!
Do not fear: God works in chaos!
In the beginning, when everything was formless and void, and darkness covered the face of the earth, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters, that age-old symbol of chaos, and with one word, God spoke light into existence! God is so excited! That light forced darkness to share the stage and set boundaries and limits; that light allowed God to see everything and single out the good for celebration; that light was the beginning of God acting to bring blessing in the midst of chaos! It was not the last time. When God’s children turned evil, God washed the world clean and started fresh with Noah; when God’s children were trapped in slavery, God set them free from the mighty Pharaoh; and when God’s children cried out in exile, God brought them home from the far country! These are just the most famous times. We could name other times in history, when God stepped into the chaos, the confusion, the crucible … and brought blessing. You might even be able to name a time when God did it on a smaller, personal scale. Like I said, God works in chaos!
So Luke says, “In those days a decree went out … that all the world should be registered” … and it forced Joseph to take Mary and travel to Bethlehem to be counted. We know something about the chaos that ensues when the government makes a decree: there is grumbling and division …
We’ve debated vaccines and effectiveness, time-tables and who gets priority; I imagine they debated the wisdom of a census, worrying over the cost in time and money. there is confusion and senseless waiting;
We’ve gotten mixed signals from TV experts and websites, newsletters and neighbors; we’ve been forced to put off seeing the grandchildren or having a party or a funeral;
I’ll bet they asked “why us?” or “why now?” or were dismayed to learn that grandma wasn’t really descended from a kingly line! and there are lines, always lines! We’ve waited at pharmacies or on hold for “the next available representative”; and while there were no such things in their day, they still had DMV-like queues, and God help you if you had waited in the wrong line, or at the wrong place! Never fear! God works in chaos!
Luke tells us that, in those days … God hijacks the Emperor’s census decree for holy purposes: Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem in time, though just barely; the baby was born, even though there were no rooms for them in the inn; and they were not abandoned or alone.
For after taking great pains to slip into the world quietly, with as few people in the know as possible, and staging the big event in a small, out of the way place, rather than the Holy City, God cannot hold back. God is too excited! You noticed this, right?
God sends an angel to recruit a team of witnesses – shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night”. I guess God figured they were up already, so why not!?
In those ordinary days, an angel appeared to them proclaiming good news of great joy! And the glory of the Lord shone all around them! I imagine it was chaos – with spooked-silly sheep and shepherds running in all directions!
(Remember, God works in chaos!)
Good thing, since it gets even more chaotic when a multitude of heavenly backup-singers join in! They croon, Glory to God! Peace on earth! Peace to everyone! Peace among the chaos! God was taking the stage, bringing blessing right there, right then!
Just like God likes to do!
Just like God is doing in these days! Amen