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).
In the Roman Empire periodical censuses were taken with the dual goal of assessing taxation and of discovering those who were available for military service. The Jews were exempt from military service, and, therefore, in Palestine a census would be predominantly for taxation purposes. Regarding these censuses, we have historical information as to what happened in Egypt; and almost certainly what happened in Egypt happened in Syria, too, and Judea was part of the province of Syria. The information we have comes from actual census documents written on papyrus and then discovered in the rubble of Egyptian towns and villages and in the sands of the desert.
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 80-90 miles. Accommodations for census travelers were extremely primitive. Many of these accommodations were like a series of open stalls which created a common courtyard-like space. Some historians believe it was in these common courtyard-like stalls that Mary's child was born.
The word manger means a place where animals feed; and therefore it can be either the stable or the manger which is meant. The irony of the most important event in history taking place in a manger should not be lost sight of—it reveals how God elevates the lowly and humble and rejects the proud and mighty of this world. Compare Philippians 2:6-7. For Luke this theme of reversal was of major importance.
That there was no room in the inn was symbolic of what was to happen to Jesus. The only place where there was room for him was on a cross. He sought an entry to the over-crowded hearts of men; he could not find it; and still his search—and his rejection—go on.
Hope is an inside job. In order to keep hope alive, it's extremely important that we monitor what we allow ourselves to see, hear and feel, especially in regards to the media. Because our subconscious minds accept as real not only our personal experiences but also those we watch or imagine vividly, it's up to us to choose mindfully and wisely what we watch and read.
Because images imprint deeply, the alarming pictures and commentary favored by the media can act as an emotional acid, etching the pain and suffering we witness into our own psyches. Such images can pull the plug on our reserves of hope. Limiting your exposure to sensationalism of all kinds is wise. Allow yourself to be as informed as you feel the need but do not allow yourself to become deformed by overexposure.
Hope is so important because it's the proverbial light at the end of any dark tunnel encountered. Hope is the ballast that keeps you moving forward and helps you to continue to believe in beauty, love, and survival, even when your personal waters are incredibly rough. With hope, it is easier to keep your head above water while navigating stormy seas. Hope has the power to make everyday life much brighter and more joyful.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).
~ Sue Patton Thoele
"The words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you” (Matthew 15:18-2).
It may well be that from a Jewish perspective this was the most startling thing Jesus ever said. For in this saying he does not only condemn Scribal and Pharisaic ritual and ceremonial religion: Jesus actually wipes out large sections of the book of Leviticus. This saying of Jesus cancels all the food laws of the Old Testament.
Once and for all Jesus lays it down that what matters is not the state of a person's ritual observance, but the state of a person's heart.
No wonder the Scribes and Pharisees were shocked. The very ground of their religion was cut from beneath their feet. This statement was not simply alarming; it was revolutionary! If Jesus was right, their whole concept of religion was wrong.
They identified religion and pleasing God with the observing of rules and regulations which had to do with cleanness and with uncleanness, with what a person ate and with how they washed their hands before eating; Jesus identified religion with the state of a person's heart, and said bluntly that these Pharisaic and Scribal regulations had nothing to do with religion.
What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we ritually do, but what is in our heart of hearts. It is Jesus' teaching (and it is a teaching which confronts every one of us) that no person can call themselves good because they observe external rituals; only when a person's heart is pure can they entertain such a thought. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
The Lockless Door by Robert Frost
It went many years,
But at last came a knock,
And I though of the door
With no lock to lock.
I blew out the light,
I tip-toed the floor,
And raised both hands
In prayer to the door.
But the knock came again.
My window was wide;
I climbed on the sill
And descended outside.
Back over the sill
I bade a 'Come in'
To whatever the knock
At the door may have been.
So at a knock
I emptied my cage
To hide in the world
And alter with age.
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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