Advent Reflection, Day 22
These anxious days of Advent 2019, many of us have turned our attention to the global centers of power to see how the latest news might better or worsen our lives. Will Trump be impeached? Will the House and Senate pass a budget? Will trade relations with China stabilize? Will there be a Tory government in London? Will Brexit finally take place? Will the Ukrainians be able to hold the line against Russia? Are we so focused on the centers of power, that we lose sight on the broken people on the margins? Do we forget about the people in small towns, the unknown corners of the world, whose lives are dramatically influenced by the decisions of potentates far away who will never know them, or care to understand their plights?
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And 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. (Luke 2:1-7)
When Luke begins the nativity story, notice how he starts at the center of power, with the Emperor Augustus, proclaiming--likely from Rome--a decree that will have consequences throughout the entire world. The decree for the imperial registration goes from Rome to Syria, where Governor Quirinius will execute it. This decree then sweeps up Joseph and Mary who have to leave their home town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judah. It is here that Mary gives birth and the child is placed more or less in a feeding trough for farm animals, because they could receive no hospitality there.
I agree with Luke, that real change comes in the margins, from unexpected people through whom God chose to do great things. Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, and the angels, are all you acting as God's agents in this story. We'll talk a little more about them tomorrow.
So during this Advent season, and this season of your life, where do you find yourself? Do you find yourself near the seat of power, where the decisions you make may potentially change the lives of many? Or do you find yourself near the margins, in the abandoned corners of the empire? Where will you look for hope in this season? Will you find it among the powerful, the wealthy, the elites? Or will you find hope among simple, broken people, whose names--unlike Joseph and Mary--will not be remembered by history? Is it crazy to think that those of us on the margins could change the course of the world, simply by struggling to survive?
Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.