Third Sunday of Advent 2014

He Qi - Nativity

Nativity [Art by He Qi.]

Luke 2:1-20 (The Message)
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire…. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census…. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighbourhood…. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Advent: a waiting place
130 kilometres on dirt tracks winding through hills and across plains would probably have taken Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary four or five days to walk.

A decade ago it would have taken less than three hours to drive.

Today the journey could not be made at all. The road through this conflicted and disputed zone is transected by heavily armed checkpoints and an eight metre high wall.

In the West we take freedom of movement as something we are entitled to. Imagine how your life would be if you needed to queue with your passport every time you wanted to get out of your street or how you would feel if you knew someone from the next suburb might be tunnelling beneath your house with the intention of violent robbery.

Each time you light your three candles pray for long term peace to come to the people of Jerusalem and Gaza (and other conflict zones). Pray for protection and healing for more than 350,000 Jewish and Palestinian children severely psychologically traumatised by loss and the sights and sounds of war. For them the wait for peace has been unbearable.

[Note that some traditions use a pink/rose candle and give this week the title “Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday”. This comes from the first word in the Latin of Philippians 4:4,5: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”)]

How do you resolve the tension between this theme and the lives of refugees and internally displaced people?

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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