“In those days . . .” things weren’t much different from “these days!”

26 12 2019

StarThey are likely some of the most familiar words in the Bible.  In chapter 2 of the Gospel according to Luke the author writes “in those days . . .” 

As the story goes, a census was to be taken that required everyone to go to their hometown.  This is what led Mary and Joseph to leave Nazareth in Galilee for the city of Bethlehem.  “And while they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child, (so) 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.”

“Those days” . . . were hard days, and for all kinds of reasons.  Augustus was the first Roman Emperor, reigning from 27 BCE until 14 CE, and under his leadership “those days” were full of oppression.  Oppression always accompanies empire!  In ’empire’ there is always an abundance of ego, abuse, and corruption.  And, in empire, there is always a scarcity of integrity,  honesty, and community.  The system will invariably exalt some, and seek to put others in their place.  It will honor and lift up some, and it will hold down and keep back others.  And always, at the heart of empire, is a corrupt and power-hungry leader, with a selfish and narcissistic lust for power.  This was true in Jesus’ day; and it is still true today.

That is why Jesus’ words and ministry remain so embarassingly relevant?  The world that shaped Jesus’ message 2000 years ago still exists today, and so Jesus still sheds a glaring light in the darkness of America’s political landscape!  And while many have chosen not to listen, the Spirit continues to move, and Jesus continues to be born in the lives of those whose hearts remain open.

Jesus came to proclaim a ‘kin’dom where those on the margins would be lifted up, and where the oppressed might be set free.  He came to be an advocate for a world where, in the words of the prophet Micah, people would strive to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  He came to call people to a higher standard, where their light would shine in the darkness, and where their swords would be beaten into pruning hooks so that they might not know war any more.  And today, as much as ever, this is the message we need to hear.

Today, America is as far from God’s ‘kin’dom as it has ever been.  As opposed to being lifted up, those on the margins are being cast down.  Justice has been perverted and continues to favor the privileged, while at the same time it casts down women, people color, those who don’t fit into rigid gender norms, and people whose faith places them outside mainstream American Evangelicalism.  Mercy has been replaced by “law and order”; and walking in humility has given way to a race towards a selfish and narcissistic form of Christian nationalism.  Too often today, people appear proud to walk in darkness, and they wear their hatred for others as a red badge (or hat!) of honor.

This Christmas, we need to allow the stories of Jesus birth to transform our world yet again.  We need to hear the angel songs of joy which are for ALL people.  We need see the heavens calling the least among us to be the first to see the Savior.  And we need to embrace the wisdom that the wise men bring to the nativity, and not fear the  knowledge and truth they offer.  But we need to do more than remember the story of Jesus’ birth.  Today, we also need to remember the message of Jesus’ life.  We need to consider the way he lived, and allow the Light of God that radiated from his life, to radiate from ours as well.

“Those days,” are these days.  And America is in desperate need of another silent and holy night.  So come Lord Jesus come!  May it be with us, as it was with Mary . . . “according to God’s holy Word.”

Yes, come Lord Jesus come, and be born in us today.





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