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I know, I know, it’s a couple of days after Christmas.  But taking my look today at Luke Chapter 2 anyway.

great light

We’ve looked at Isaiah Chapter 9 already.  We have seen that the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.  So this is Christmas.

No_Room_At_The_Inn

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

caesar-augustus

Caesar Augustus, empower of the world, wanted a census.  As with every census, he wanted to be sure he knew where his taxes were coming from, the taxes which his and every empire depend upon to maintain their power over the people.

no room

Luke starts this part of the story with a wide angle lens.  It’s a very wide shot, the world ruled by Caesar.  Then region he comes in a little tighter to the nation-state of Syria governed by Quirinius, then down to the region of Judea, narrowing further to the village Bethlehem.  Then we see the inn, then we are in the stable in the inn, then a manger with a baby.   Finally the scene ends with a tight shot, a shot of the face face of a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling  clothes.

Pieta,_attributed_To_Antonio_Ciseri

Luke is foreshadowing something here in Luke 2:7.   The baby wrapped in cloths laid in manger foreshadows Luke 23:23, Jesus post crucifixion being wrapped in cloths and laid in tomb.   It’s all part of the same story, we must never forget that.  Jesus coming into the world, born in a cave where they keep the animals is Emmanuel, God with us, with us in birth, with us in life, with us in death.  He is God with us that he might give us new way of being human and lead us out of our ways of death into life and resurrection…

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 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Manger

The angel said to shepherds what the angels always say – Fear not.  Shepherds in this time and place are the humblest of humble, lowest of the low, they are the ones who’ve always suffered the most.  But the angel says to them  I bring you good news of great joy….you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  Be clear here.  This manger is not a prop for a nativity scene, it’s a feeding trough for the animals, the animals who lived in this particular cave.   Jesus was born in a cave, but his was certainly not the first birth to happen in this cave.  These animal had birthed their own calves and kids into the world right in this same cave, and now this little baby is born, wrapped in swaddling clothes per the custom of the day, then laid down in their feeding trough for a crib.  Is this not at least a little bit strange?

bread_oflife

Stranger still – this little baby laid down in a feeding trough would grow up to say things like  “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst….I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”….So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:35, 51, 53-56 ESV.  Picture now the bread of life laid in a manger, a feeding trough.   Christ does not save us by killing our enemies but by offering us his own body and his own shed blood and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

peace-on-earth-christmas-card-joy-mcadams

God does not hate mankind. He’s kindly inclined toward mankind in his own pleasure, but he wants to save us from our ways of death.

Decree_GovnrOfAsia_PrieneTurkey_Caesar_Evangelion_Gospel_NewYear

The Gospel of Christ came into a world that already had a gospel.  The world already had the Gospel of Caesar, specifically Caesar Augustus.  The Roman Senate had already declared him savior of the world because of the great peace he had brought into the world.  There was talk as to whether to split time into B.C. (Before Caesar) and A.D. based upon his birth and life.  Yes he had brought peace, the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome.  But as the historian Tacitus had noted, there were  complaints that Rome “created a desert and calls it peace.”  The Roman army would show up to a new territory, and announce that they were here to bring peace.  Some might reply “we already have peace!”   To which Romes response was, “yes, but it’s not our peace!”   They would seize territory, impose taxes, and carry the best from that territory back to Rome.   If some so happened to resist, they would be killed, creating peace!   Amen!!??

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Christ does not save us by killing our enemies but by being born in a manger, offering his flesh as food, teaching us to love our enemies and be radically forgiving.  He then lives out his own teaching all the way through allowing himself to tortured and crucified upon the cross.  It is upon the cross that Christ judges the world, it is as he cries out Father forgive them that the ugliness of human sin lies bare for all to see.   Christ naked and dying upon the cross paradoxically shines the brightest light upon the systems of sin which have been in place since the foundation of the world.

Dark-Rainy-Night-Wallpaper

It’s time to speak plainly.  We are a violent species.  Violence is our most diabolical source of systemic evil.  It just seems keep going on forever and forever.  From Cain killing Abel, to Pharaoh Ramses Tutmosis, to Alexander the Great, to Caesar Augustus, to Auschwitz, to Hiroshima, to 9/11, to Sandy Hook, to Lax Vegas, to MS13, to your own street corner on a dark rainy night.

war is over

In the past 5000 years, there have been approximately 14500 wars killing 3.5 billion people.  Born on Christmas Day, laid in a manger, the Prince of Peace offers a better way, if we will dare.  As the John Lennon Christmas anthem puts it, War is over, if you want it.

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The 20th century will be known as the century we finally perfected the technology of killing.  Meanwhile, Jesus waits for us.   Since the end of WWII over 23 million more have been killed in war.  Wars around the world have created tens of millions of refugees.  90% of those casualties have been civilians, 3 out of 4 of these have been women and children.  And the angels continue to sing “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled….the herald angels sing “glory to the newborn king!””

savior

We currently have over 19000 nuclear weapons in the world.  That’s enough to destroy the human race 20 times over.  It’s time to get on the Jesus train.  It’s time to seriously consider following the Prince of Peace into a new way of being human.   “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:1-16 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.1-16.esv

John Lewis

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