December 22nd – The Story: Going Up to Bethlehem

Luke 2: 1-4

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.


Hush, now. Here is the core of the story. It begins in earnest. The earth is turning toward the birthing of its king. The heavens have started their slow spiral down, down to a Judean town. In an instant in eternity, in the space inside a manger both shall meet like fingers touching.

Governments and peoples, too, are entoiled in the measureless event—though ignorantly, since the company of those who know what God is doing is humble still, and very small.

Governments and peoples, yes, and all the world.

All the world!

The emperor Octavian, whom the people call “Augustus (the sublime one, consecrated and divine); the emperor Octavian, whose other name, Caesar, will grow so grand as to embrace world rulers for millennia hence, Czars and Kaisers—the emperor is unwittingly involved. He decrees a worldly thing, and heaven smiles.

All went to be enrolled. . . .

Then, vastly, humanity itself begins to move, wheels in wheels turning, tribes and tongues and peoples and nations—all caught in the momentum of heavenly revolutions, but unaware. They are moving absently, their heads bent down like oxen at the mill wheel.

Oh, what a puzzlement are the populations of this dark earth! They know not the nearness of God. They elevate their emperors to the status of the divine; but at the descent of true Divinity  they go about their business unaware.

Nevertheless, they go, and their business is heaven’s business in spite of all, because God loves them! God loves them, and that’s the reason for the grand migrations of heaven and earth toward one another in order to meet and marry in the birth of a baby.

Vastly, humanity is moving, while angels as silent as snow fall down from heaven. The peoples are rivers flowing uphill, up from Galilee to Judea.

And here is the precious center of all these universal turnings: a man and a woman are climbing a winding path to Bethlehem. No one notices. They are lowly and all too common. It is evening. They make a small silhouette against the fiery sky.

Long, long have they been traveling. The journey began two thousand years ago when the Lord said to Abraham, In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

The woman knows when the journey began. Even now as she labors uphill she sings the soft song in her heart,

He is helping his servant Israel

Remembering the mercy

He uttered to our fathers,

Abraham and his posterity, forever.

The woman knows. Though no one else n all the world may know, yet she knows:

The life inside her is about to become the life of the world.

Ah, but hush. Hush now, my best beloved. For that ancient journey, and the turnings together of heaven and earth, and the imminent collisions of angels and peoples—why, it all began the day before yesterday, when governments decreed enrollments and Joseph and Mary packed a bag in Nazareth and started walking south, to Bethlehem, to the dawning.


O Lord!

And I know it, too! Mary may go calmly toward her Christmas, but I am filled with excitement for mine. O my Lord, God of the little and of the large, your love is as universal as all creation, and yet as particular as my small heart! Here at Christmas, you embrace the nations. Whether they know it, whether they confess it or not, you, Jesus, have saved all people from their sins!

But you are the baby in my cradle, here in my house under my tree. How can such impossibilities be? 

But with God nothing (I know, I know) shall be impossible.

Hallelujah!

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