Summary: The Incarnation as Noisy Reality, not Quiet Theology
It Was NOT a Silent Night
Incarnation Reality and Myth
Christmas is a time of surprises. A lady was preparing her Christmas cookies. There came a knock at the door. She went to find a man, his clothes poor, obviously looking for some Christmas odd jobs. He asked her if there was anything he could do. She said, “Can you paint?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’m a rather good painter.”
“Well,” she said, “there are two gallons of green paint there and a brush, and there’s a porch out back that needs to be painted. Please do a good job. I’ll pay you what the job is worth.”
He said, “Fine. I’ll be done quickly.”
She went back to her cookie making and didn’t think much more about it until there was a knock at the door. She went, and the obviousness of his painting was evident: he had it on his clothes. She said, “Did you finish the job.”
He said, “Yes.”
She said, “Did you do a good job?”
He said, “Yes. But lady, there’s one thing I’d like to point out to you. That’s not a Porsche back there. That’s a Mercedes.”
Of all the surprises of Christmas, one of them is surely the whole idea that you are I would think of that first Christmas as a silent night.
LK 2: 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
Powerful men like to count things. They like to count guns, missiles, planes, and, above all, they like to count people. When you count people you make them less than human.
You there, you’re number 17934, stand over there in that group.
You count people when you want to gauge your success or when you want to increase your income. You count people when you want to control them, make them less than human. Prisoners are counted because they are no longer free. Soldiers are counted because they may be expendable. You count animals you plan to slaughter, but you name animals you plan to keep as family pets. You can pretty tell your fate (if you’re an animal) by whether or not people call you Fluffy or Number 5918.
You also count machines. My car gets 24.5 miles per gallon. Or, my car can go from zero to sixty in just 9.3 seconds. Or, this machine is running at 83% capacity. That’s also how we talk about businesses. Profits are up 30%. The market is down 10%. We have 320 employees. We get a 5% raise this year.
Now people, real people, don’t fit well into numbers. How’s your wife? Seventeen. Seventeen what? Just seventeen. Last week she was twenty-three, but the week before that she was only fifteen. So, all in all, seventeen is not bad. Don’t you agree.
When you talk about people as human beings you talk about things like health, emotions, unity, love, discouragement, despair, hope. Numbers don’t address any of those things. Not really.
But we are like Augustus. We love numbers. We even count churches and we count attendance and we count offering. How was November at Indian Creek is generally looking for numbers as an answer.
Funny, Jesus wasn’t good at numbers. In fact, he really do well with big crowds. Not really. Sure, he feed several thousand. But, when they came back the next day he preached a sermon the Bread of Life that ended up getting everybody except the twelve to walk away. Boy he blew it that day. Betcha he won’t preach that sermon again.
Jesus, how was last week. Well, Monday was great. We have more than 10,000 in attendance. But the rest of the week was a disaster. By Wednesday I had preached that 10,000 listeners right down to 12.
Hmm, don’t guess you’ll be written up in Preacher’s Quarterly this year, huh?
Augustus was a powerful man and Rome was really just a massive machine where human beings served as little more then economic units to support the empire.
On the night that Jesus was born, there was a lot of men sitting around counting things. Money. Profits. Slaves, Conquests. Population. No wonder they didn’t notice a child born in a barn. And when his parents later had to flee to Egypt, he was just another Palestinian refugee. Another nameless face in a sea of nameless faces.
LK 2: 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.