God can join your story2
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
- Luke 2:1-2
Luke interrupts the Christmas narrative to share this tidbit of information: the census that drove Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem happened while Quirinus was governor in Syria. Why did Luke bother to include this detail?
Luke is working hard to record a history of the life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus. He conducted interviews, decided what to include, and crafted the story in a way that he felt captured what had really happened. The Gospel of Luke is peppered with little details like those found in today’s passage.
This feature makes Luke’s Gospel complicated to read. Historians debate whether Luke got all of his facts correct, especially when his accounts contain details that aren’t found in the other Gospels or in other ancient histories. This presents a challenge to us. We can regard Luke’s Gospel as good or poor history; what we can’t do it treat it like a fairy tale.
Luke’s Gospel is grounded in history because Jesus stepped into a world already in progress. This census that took place under Quirinus sparked a famous protest that burst into a flaring rebellion. Judas the Galilean urged his fellow Jews to ignore the call to register for the census. He and his followers equated taxation with slavery and refused to pay. They founded the Zealot movement that eventually led to all-out war with Rome and the destruction of the Temple.
When Christ comes into this world, he starts a new chapter but not a new book. Yes, God is doing a new thing in Jesus. But he’s doing a new thing here, in our history, with us. The Christmas surprise is that God himself shows up in the middle of a story where governors like Quirinus and emperors like Augustus hold sway. There’s no story that God cannot join.
What this means for us is that God can join our stories. He can show up no matter who’s governor or king or president, no matter which bowl your favorite college football team did (or didn’t) get invited to, no matter whether your family dynamic is functional or dysfunctional this holiday season. There’s no story that God cannot join.
Take a moment today to ask God to join your story, to show up today in a way you can see.