Luke tells us that he intends to offer an orderly account of the story of Jesus, and after Mark’s breathless recounting, full of stories within stories, the reader is most grateful for the physician’s promise of structure. As we begin to take in his writing, our gratitude quickly becomes puzzlement. Just how far is Luke going to take this “orderly account?” Is there a point at which detailed become dull? Come on Luke, why on earth are you including this…
“Luke 2:1–3 (KJV 1900) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.”
Taxes? You are telling the story of the King of Kings and you include the lowly orders of a census given by Caesar? We are learning of the Messiah and you want to talk about civic constructs. We do not understand.
A cursory reading may leave one concluding that Luke is somehow missing the majesty of the moment. But, it would be wrong to conclude that this focus on the ordinary is out of place in the narrative.
First, Luke is providing the backstory for why Mary ends up giving birth in a town so far from home, albeit the town prophesied of by Micah.
However, I do no think this is the only thing we can extract from his inclusion of these details. Luke is telling the story of the incarnation, the “becoming man,” the “putting on of flesh,” of God the Son. This chapter is the moment that Heaven invades Earth.
So, why is Luke talking about something so ordinary as a census?
Perhaps, we need to be reminded that God is not only encountered in the magnificent moment we gather with 1000 other believers for a special time of worship in a convocation or conference. “God with us” is not just about church or moments of spiritual height.
Rather, Christmas shows us that we encounter God when the extraordinary invades the ordinary moments of every day life. Christmas reveals that God is with us, not just in carefully orchestrated moments of heaven-focused intentionality. In our mundane and menial times, He is just as present.
Christmas reminds us that Emanuel is the extraordinary invading the ordinary.
God is with us when we stand in front of a broken washing machine wondering how we will pay. God is with us when we struggle to help our kids get homework done. God is with us when we stand at our machines or sit in our offices trying to earn enough to get by. God is with us in traffic. God is with us when the doctor is unsure.
God is with us when things go well. God is with us when things go poorly. God is with us when things go. God is with us when things. God is with us when. God is with us.