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.
Day one, the story begins. In secret, in obscurity, in silence, Jesus is born.
Ninety-nine more days to go.
We are so familiar with this story. We have seen it on a thousand Christmas cards and watched children acting it out in dressing gowns and tea towels at school nativities. So have we lost sight of what a strange and mysterious story it really is?
The names and places set the stage. First, we see the mighty Empire, with decisions made by its emperor in Rome. Jesus is going to be born on the distant edge of this world. He is irrelevant to it, a nobody. Second, Mary and Joseph appear living in Nazareth, a tiny village ‘up North’. Think not of a nice attractive modern village but of grinding poverty, insecure lives, ignorance and superstition, a poor diet and a hot dusty terrain. Jesus is born dirt poor, he is a peasant, at the bottom of the pile. Third, we read of Bethlehem, city of Kings. There is a bloodline between the great King David and Jesus. A new King is being born.
A baby is born – an irrelevant baby – on the edge of the Roman Empire
a poor baby – to Mary and Joseph
a royal baby – into Bethlehem
Yes we know the story, but actually we know so little about it. It is so familiar, but the rich details are elusive. We know the outline, but most of us have never ‘coloured it in’. So at the beginning of our 100 day journey we will spend a full week at the very beginning of what is usually referred to as ‘the nativity’. Angels and prophets, shepherds and kings, light and dark, we shall meet them all on this crowded little stage. As we look again at these familiar tales we shall be starting out on a holy trek, a pilgrimage and following in the footsteps of the greatest human being who has ever lived.
There is of course a hidden away little thought in all this. If this is how the story of Jesus entering the world began, how did the story of Jesus entering your world begin? Where and when is your Bethlehem? Or perhaps that story has not yet fully begun, perhaps your own private world is still at the ‘pregnant with possibilities stage’. Maybe you are still a searcher, not yet a follower.
Most of us have got our own deep centre. Much of it we keep hidden away for most of the time. It holds memories of the past and plans for the future. There regrets float around, along with hopes and dreams. It is here at our centre, in our deepest, most ‘me’ place that we need a stable and a crib. It is here that Jesus needs to be ‘born’ in us.
Back to the emperor for a second little thought. If Jesus has been born into your world, whether it was ten weeks or ten years ago, who is at the centre, who is the emperor, who issues the big decrees in your empire? Who gives the orders? Is it your boss, your children, your bank manager, your partner or you yourself? Or possibly you are trying to make Jesus your emperor?
Dear Lord Jesus,
As you entered then,
So may you enter now.
As you entered there,
So may you enter here.
Beginning small and growing,
Beginning in my inner place and spreading out to my whole life,