THE KING IS HERE
Father, on this day after Christmas as the year winds down, I thank you for your many blessings this year.
Read LUKE 2:1-7
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
- Luke 2:2 Or This census took place before
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, / hail, the incarnate Deity.’1
And so to the best-known part of the story. The danger is that we read it through the eyes with which we have always read it and miss some of what happened. Here we move from a specific local emphasis to a broader picture. Having united Rome and initiated the empire, Gaius Octavius was given the title Augustus, which hints at divinity. By the time Luke was writing, emperor worship was well developed in the eastern parts of the empire. There is a reassessment of the way power is viewed. Augustus, divine emperor of Rome, appears to be in control, but the real control lies with God who is establishing his kingdom in a quiet corner of Judaea.
Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem: from what we know of travel at the time, almost certainly on foot. This was a long, wearying journey under immensely difficult conditions, at the order of an occupying power. Our traditional understanding is that they arrive, find nowhere to stay and Mary immediately gives birth, but a closer examination of verse 6 suggests a longer stay. For those familiar with other translations and the more normal ‘inn’, the use of the term ‘guest room’ (v 6, NIV) is surprising. The reasons for the change are beyond the scope of a brief note.2 There is a distinct possibility that because the guest room was full, Jesus was born in the normal family living quarters, which were shared with the animals who occupied a lower level, with the manger between the two levels. If this is true, it means that Jesus, although born into relative poverty, was born into the normal, everyday world of family life. It is easy to sanitize the whole process: like any birth, it would have been painful and messy – and Jesus would have cried.
How will we ensure that Jesus has his place at the center of the everyday world of family, work, socializing?
Dear God, thank you for drawing near to this world in Christ Jesus. He who was rich became poor for my sake. Hallelujah!
1 C Wesley, 1939 2 www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/does-it-matter-that-jesus-wasnt-born-in-a- stable; Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, p25
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