Archives: Luke 2:1-20

Who Counts At Christmas?

We begin the story of Christmas with a sentence from scripture that’s not quite true.

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Well, almost all the world.

Everyone who had some kind of position in society, even a working class one, like Mary and Joseph, went to be registered.

Anyone who could conceivably pay taxes was on the Emperor’s list, and had to report in and be accounted for.

It was sort of the first century equivalent of Big Brother/Big Data.

You’re not getting anywhere in America without a social security card, and you couldn’t get anywhere in first century Palestine without being on the Emperor’s list.

If you were taxable, you would be counted.

“All went to their own towns to be registered,” Luke says.

Well, again, not quite all.

Luke himself tells us that in the next paragraph: “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

The shepherds did not return to their hometown to be registered. They were on the very bottom rung of society.

They couldn’t pay taxes, and had fallen so far between the cracks of the Roman Empire that they weren’t even expected to.

They were nobodies.

When it came time for the registration, to show up and present your name and your papers to the government, no one looked for them.

They quite literally didn’t count.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Are Not the Same Thing

We made it! We’ve arrived!

Every bow has been tied, every stocking has been stuffed, every cookie has been baked and every Christmas tree light has been lit.

Or if that’s not all done, well, it’s too late now, so don’t worry about it.

The storm is over and we have gathered in a quiet country barn with the family who found no room at the inn to see and experience the miracle that changed the world.

This is the most sacred hour of the year. The whole world hushes to anticipate the arrival of the incarnate God, our savior Jesus Christ being born.

The interesting thing is that along with all the holiness and awe, there is a great deal of pain. Continue reading

Christmas is a Choice

Christmas is not an event.

Christmas is not a holiday.

Christmas is not a church service.

Christmas is not a set of familiar carols or decorations of red and green or a jolly man in a red suit with eight tiny reindeer.

Christmas is not an occasion or a party or a festival. It is not a piece of history or time off work or a gathering with family.

All of these things are connected to Christmas, but fundamentally, Christmas is not an event.

Christmas is a choice.

Christmas is a choice that we make every year, and that we must make over and over again every day of the year.

Choice and lack of choice place us in one of two positions: one of vulnerability and one of power and control.

When we don’t have a choice about something, we are vulnerable to that circumstance. We can’t defend ourselves from that reality.

That situation acts upon us and we simply have to make the best of it.

It’s not a very fun place to be sometimes.

When we have a choice about our situation, we have power and control.

We can influence our surroundings and how they affect us.

So you’ll be glad to hear that Christmas is a choice that we have, that we can make.

Christmas cannot simply happen to us without our consent.

We have to say yes to a very specific decision, which I will explain in a bit. But again, first let’s talk about lack of choices and the vulnerable position that creates. Continue reading

O Come All Ye Faithful, Bored and Irritated

Why are we here tonight? 

That’s actually a more complex question than we might think. 

Many of us are here out of habit and/or tradition.  We’re here either because we come to this church every Sunday and Christmas Eve is part of the deal, or we’re here because we simply always go to church on Christmas and Easter. 

We might be here because our parents made us come, or we might be here for the sake of the children or grandchildren.  We might be here to sing favorite carols and see the greenery and just generally feel festive. 

I’m here because it’s my job to be here, in addition to wanting to be here, of course.  Every one of those reasons is a fine and good reason to be in church tonight. 

But I’m wondering if there might just be another reason working in the background, whether we realize it or not. Continue reading

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