Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The journey to the birth: great and small

Caesar Augustus was emperor over the vast Roman Empire, which had brought peace to much of the civilized world. His troops were well-trained, his laws observed throughout the empire. He was considered a divine agent by many, meaning that his decisions and decrees were those of a god.

Augustus ordered a census, to establish how many people he could tax. And in those ancient days, people were required to return to their ancestral homes to be counted.

So Joseph, of the line of David, had to travel to Bethlehem. We see the account in Luke 2, a familiar story, perhaps.

Ironically, Augustus did serve as a divine agent, bringing about God’s purpose, although Augustus was unaware of how his census degree was part of God’s plan from the beginning.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not because Mary and Joseph plotted to make this baby a Messiah wanna-be. They were very poor and powerless within the Roman Empire. He was born in Bethlehem because an emperor wanted to count the people for tax purposes.

Who would think that God would use a Caesar as a piece in a divine chess game, sliding the pieces into place so that the Messiah was born in the town prophets had proclaimed centuries before?

The prophet Micah had declared:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times. "
Micah 5:2

God brought his son to this earth through a curious passage, blessing poor and lowly people like Mary and Elizabeth and Zechariah with angel visits, while using a great emperor as a servant to facilitate the plan.

And so Jesus was born, a baby swaddled like all Jewish babies were swaddled. He had to diapered and fed, for he was a weak newborn.

The Father’s mystery was great. An emperor served unknowingly; the Father's son served humbly and with incredible grace.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
Phil 2:8

Tomorrow: lowliest

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