“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. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
I was moved this season during my sermon/meditation preparation by Will Willamon’s devotional in Watch for the Light, and Kathleen Norris’ in the Christian Century:
Our gospel is the unlikely tale that begins with an emperor’s folly, for in setting out to register “all the world,” Augustus and his governor Quirinius put something into motion that transcends all earthly power. We know the story and how it comes out, but let’s try to see ourselves in the shepherds’ place, afraid to open ourselves to God and in need of reassurance, of being told not to fear. Let’s be willing, like Mary, to take the words in, to treasure and ponder them, because so much is possible when we do. As these words wash over us they penetrate, despite our defenses and distractions. Their spirit can move us and change us, whether we will it or not. Simply being present is enough, for church is a place that allows this transformation to occur. If we feel utterly exhausted, drained of all feeling and weary with worldly chores and concerns, so much the better. Our weakness is God’s strength. Our emptiness means that there is room for God after all.
May we find ourselves empty and ready to receive the Christ-child anew.