Christmas Story Meditation — the setting
“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.” Luke 2:1-3.
This is how our story begins. No “once upon a time.” No step through the looking glass or the Narnia closet. Joseph and Mary weren’t on some adventure or spiritual pilgrimage. We begin with the absurd, the political, the bureaucratic. A despotic ruler wants to tax the people, and in order to do that he has to count them. So he orders a mass migration of all the people, orders them to travel potentially hundreds of miles, on foot, so that they could pay him money. Money that would probably go to pay for his armies, to keep these same people under control. This is how our story begins. God breaks into the ordinary, hardscrabble human life, where the mighty wield their power against the powerless. It invites us to ponder this: what story are we living? Because if we didn’t know better, it looks as though Empire, rulers ruling, conquering other people and nations rising and falling, is the framing story, the story’s reason for its telling. We live this story all the time, who’s in and who’s out, who are the wannabees, the rebels, the accommodators, the retreaters, all defining themselves and their lives in terms of human power. But we know this story is actually not about Caesar Augustus, or Quirinius. It’s about two no-bodies from a back-water town. The vulnerable and the powerless. This is where, and how, God’s great love is born into the world.
What is your journey, and where is God in your journey? What is the framing story?