In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
There is a woman at our church who often reads the first part of the Christmas story. It's usually dark in the santuary and only her voice is heard. It feels as though we all might be snug in our pajamas gathered around her reading chair. We all sit with great expectation she begins, "In those days...". Her voice is smooth and sweet and there is always a tinge of excitement behind her words. She loves the Lord and can't wait to tell His story.
As I think about Christmas Eve and the excitement and hope of Jesus, I think about "those days". What were those days like? A little digging around in history would tell you that there was political unrest. While Roman rule brought about some economic prosperity, the Jews in particular did not want Roman influence to bleed into their religion or their way of life. It was subtle but tensions were rising.
Those days were likely tense. In those days people were wondering if their way of life would be allowed to continue. And then, because of government rule and policy, Mary and Joseph were made to travel far to be registered for the census, not because they wanted to make sure these citizens were cared for and protected but to make sure they could be taxed.
Those days were only the beginning of a tumultuous time for the world. The pressure on Jesus' earthly family would only continue as Herod would want Him killed. We often forget this gruesome part of the Christmas story. Those wise men had to seek Him out because He was in hiding. All babies under the age of two were to be killed because Herod feared his throne would be taken. Those days were filled with fear, murder, and those in authority were not taking care; they were taking lives.
In a lot of ways, those days sound a lot like these days. We are reminded daily of political unrest in much of the world. Refugees are running for their lives and crossing borders, not to be counted but to be flee from murderous factions who seek to destroy their way of life. Refugees are then feared because the seeds of fear and terror have been planted deep in the minds of many. Children are among those running and they are not protected or cherished, they are bought, sold, and murdered.
But God in His graciousness and kindness sent Jesus in those days. God did not wait for humanity to clean up its act before He decided to dwell among us. Emmanuel, God With Us, came down to be the salve for mankind. And while 2,000 years ago feels so very distant to us, a thousand years is like a day to the Lord. He came for these days, too. He came to reside in the hearts of man through faith and belief that He was not just born to show a humble, perfect life but that He would die to pay for the sins of all.
As you sit in your churches this Christmas Eve, listen expectantly to the reading of Luke 2. Contemplate those days and think on these days. How are you living out Christ's love and kindness now - in these days? If you know Him, are you sharing His light and life to the ones who live in fear around you? You might not know a refugee but you likely know someone who feels hated or betrayed. You probably know someone who feels like they are in no win situation. You likely know a child who needs a safe place. Christmas is not just a time to remember the miraculous birth of God in the flesh, it's a time to be reflect that grace and love to all who need Him, right now...at this time, in these days.