The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
December 9, 2018 – Second Sunday of Advent
Some might wonder why the Gospel of Luke goes into so much detail about the time when Jesus was born. Today’s gospel begins, “In the reign of Emperor Tiberius … “ and so forth. Why does it matter that we know who was the Roman Emperor when Jesus was born or who were those other political figures that were in office on the first Christmas? None of them became Christians. None of them even knew Jesus.
So, why are they so important? Why does the gospel writer, St. Luke, goes to the trouble of mentioning them, not only by name, but also where they ruled? Why doesn’t the gospel begin more like most ancient narratives with the usual, “Once upon a time?”
Here’s why. And this is important. Jesus was born into our world. In the time we share with all others. And it happened at a real place. Not anywhere. But somewhere. In the concrete details of first century Palestine when this emperor was ruling and this king was reigning and this local leader was in charge. Details! Details! It’s important to know the details. That’s because God comes to us connected with real details! Back then and NOW!
And the coming of Christ was preceded by a specifically named person, John the Baptist, who said this (not that) about him. Again, notice the details because when Christ comes again to others, even to you and to me, it will always be in the details of our lives. God will come us during this day or that, in this place or that. Be alert. Be ready.
Further, in this world, our world, God became human and remains with us through God’s Holy Spirit. As we say, through God’s grace, God’s gift to us is God’s real presence and God’s divine friendship. And thus, using words from today’s gospel, “all flesh will see the salvation of God.” That means us! During our lives in the places where we live and during the times of our lives.
So, the account of the life of Jesus is dated and situated. Not “once upon a time” but in a specific time. Not “in a land far, far away,” but in a specific part of our world. (You can go there and see the place.) In other words, God comes to us “where we are.” In our families, our friendships, even in encounters with strangers. This is a great truth of our faith and something that we are reminded of each Advent.
©David M. Thomas, PhD