Dec 6 2011 - E100.53a – Luke 2:1-20, No room at the inn
The world of Jesus' day was ruled by Rome. Caesar Augustus could issue a decree and the lives of millions were disrupted. Joseph had to take his heavily pregnant betrothed wife from their home town in Nazareth to their ancestral town of Bethlehem to register in the Roman Census. Caesar may seem all-powerful, but in reality it is God who is at work to fulfil ancient prophecy; the Messiah, David's greater son, is to be born in Bethlehem in Judea.
And what a contrast. The Lord of all creation, against whom Caesar's power is totally insignificant, is coming into the world. But there is no room for him in any guest room, let alone a palace; he is born among the animals and laid in a manger. He comes not in power but in weakness; not in majesty but in humility.
And his coming is heralded not to kings but to shepherds, to those who would often be despised because they could not observe the Sabbath. They are the first to hear of his coming as angels announce his birth with the extraordinary words:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)
God brings glory to his name as he shows favour to shepherds and soothes their fears with words of joy and peace. Jesus will bring glory to the Father as he ministers peace to those whom the world despises and declares the judgment of God upon those who seek their own glory.
Make no mistake about it, there is an indissolubly 'political' element to the Christmas story. How could it be otherwise when God humbles himself that those who he has made and loved might be exalted.
Let earth and heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man. (Charles Wesley)
Great God of the universe, help me to join the shepherds in wondering at this world-shaking event; Christ, the Saviour of the world has come – as a helpless baby.