Monday, January 7, 2013

Living with Luke (6): Luke 2:1-20





            Luke the Evangelist
 is traditionally symbolized by a winged ox or bull –
             a figure of sacrifice, service and strength.                                                                                                        The ox signifies that Christians should be prepared to sacrifice themselves in following Christ.


LIVING WITH LUKE (6)
2:1-20: The Birth of Messiah
2 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

The great moment arrives in the context of remembered dates, officials, and governmental activities yet owes nothing to them.  The hustle and bustle of empire swirls around it, yet it is in a unexpected bywater of that empire that it happens.  The privileged and powerful are neither told about it nor are there to see it.  Only shepherds, a poor and lowly segment of society, are told and go to witness the dawning of God’s new age.

          And there, in the humble manger, this rude element of society surrounded by the smells and sounds of the cattle, beheld a child and his parents and related to them the good news the angels delivered to them about him: “Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”
          After a long chapter in which Luke has layered this event with all manner of allusion and reference to the Old Testament story, we (readers) will not miss the point:  “savior,” “Christ,” “Lord” anchor this child at the key pivotal point in this story.  Most of his contemporaries did, however, miss the point.  And that, as we have seen, is the burden of Luke’s work:  to justify the ways of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises in this most peculiar and counterintuitive fashion.            
           


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