(Luke 2: 1-7)
I’m memorizing Luke 2:1-16 for our Christmas Eve service. Maybe that sounds impressive, but the truth is I know most of it already: “In those days, a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. . . .” It’s a familiar story. Comfortable language. A rhythm and a cadence that’s deep inside me from childhood family gatherings when I would gaze at my flickering candle flame as Uncle Walt read: “ . . . and she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manager . . .”
This morning, I listened to a recording of the verses, learning the first phrase, then the second, always backing up and putting it all together. Which means I heard and spoke the beginning lines of the text over a dozen times: In those days . . . In those days . . . In those days . . .
I’ve been lamenting lately about these days. These days of warfare and refugees and hate crimes and environmental apocalypse. These days when injustice runs rampant and violence feeds violence. There is much to lament, it is true.
It is also true that Jesus was born in those days, which saw their share of violence and injustice as well. The Pax Romana was maintained on the backs of the poor and vulnerable in the Roman Empire.
While we certainly face a very particular—and frightening—set of challenges in these days, there is a sense in which these days are always those days. Situations, powers, principalities that are hard, brutal, and unjust. And we can face these days as people who are faithful, joyful, and full of life.
Because the baby born in those days is still the Immanuel of these days. God with us. Thanks be.