READ: Luke 2:1-20
This story weaves through the years of my life read and re-read, told and re-told. And yet, even in this reading a new understanding captures me. The first sentences actually drew me in. The history of Rome’s occupation of Israel paints a picture of incredible unrest behind the seemingly peaceful statement in Luke 2:1 about a decree for a census. Herod the Great was dead and in the wake of that death Israel was divided into three protectorates under three different rulers. The census decree itself caused major rebellion and many Jews were killed in response. Over the course of about a 10 year period surrounding Jesus’ birth 2,000 Jewish men were crucified outside of Jerusalem. In another response to rocks thrown by Jewish men at Roman soldiers, 3,000 men were slaughtered in a bloodbath in the temple one year on the day of Passover.
After traveling a distance in a dark and dangerous time, Joseph came to Bethlehem and stood before the Censor of Rome to be counted, surely in an emotional turmoil. He stood before the representative of a brutal oppressor government to account for himself, his espoused wife and the child in her womb. He was required to report all of his material goods. He would surely have been aware of the unrest around the census; he may even have lost friends or family to Rome’s retribution. Perhaps he had considered joining in the rebellion. But here was his wife, large with child, pregnant with the promise of God. I wonder if even as Joseph stood for the census, in a town that was anything but ‘quiet’, he was hearing again in his heart the words of the angel “Do not be afraid.”
Zechariah, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds – all of them lived in an incredibly dark time, a time of darkness to rival the darkness in so many places around our earth today. They lived ordinary lives turned toward God, seeking to live righteous in His sight. Each of them found their ordinary life interrupted in extraordinary ways. And in the midst of the interruption they heard “Do not be afraid.”
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20
“But the angel said to him (Zechariah): “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” Luke 1:13
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of a visitation from God. Do not be afraid to obey. Hear, believe, act and know that you are participating in the unshakable purposes of God Himself.
Lord, our times are dark but You have called us to live in the light and to let the light shine through us. Today my life is simple – simply hearing, believing and acting daily in a way that brings You glory. Tomorrow You may call me to something more; a harder hearing, believing and acting on what You speak to me. Whether in small things or big, help me hear the “Do not be afraid” from You Lord! Help me live an unafraid on purpose life in You!