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12.24.16 Are We There Yet? Luke 2:1-20 Sermon Summary

by on January 9, 2017

There are some words we all know that make any trip longer. “Um, a light on the dashboard just started flashing.” “I can hardly see with all this snow.” “The next bathroom is another fifteen miles from here?!” But no words which make a trip longer are more frequent that the four-word question, “Are we there yet?”

“Are we there yet” is the question of people who have had enough! The road has been long, it’s been uncomfortable, the strains of travel have worn us down, and we ask, Are we there yet?

It’s also the question of people who are excited to get where they’re going. They want to see, they have things to do. They’re ready to get started!

Sometimes parents forget this. We think that “Are we there yet?” is the question of people who only want to ANNOY. So we try to avoid the question. We sing songs. We play hunting games like “I spy.” More recently we have handed out ear buds and provided portable DVD players. Regardless of our response, “Are we there yet” always makes any trip longer.

During Advent this year Faith Church has engaged in a virtual walk to Bethlehem. From Colorado Springs to Bethlehem it is about 7000 miles. We’ve taken six weeks. It’s been for us a time of preparation, and all in anticipation for Christmas Day (and Eve), when we welcome the birth of the Savior.

According to the Bible, Joseph and Mary also walked. It was for them only about ninety miles. It would have taken somewhere between five and ten days. Historians have some questions regarding this story, but theologians agree: It is significant that Jesus be born in Bethlehem.

It’s significant because of ancient Israel’s walk to Bethlehem. It took about 1000 years. The miles were determined by lost wars and subsequent exiles. First was the Assyrian exile in the eighth century before Christ. They walked about 600 miles each way. Then it was the Babylonian exile in the sixth century. That also was about 600 miles each way. Add to that religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem for worship at Temple, and to Bethlehem to remember David.

David was the great King. He reigned about 1000 years before Jesus’ birth. He was the one who defeated the giant Goliath. His reign started the golden age of peace, prosperity, and international supremacy. And David was born in Bethlehem.

Things were never so good as they were under David. In the centuries to come, the Assyrians conquered the North, the Babylon conquered the South. Then came the Persians, Greeks, and now in the days of Jesus it was the Romans.

The people of Jesus’ day longed for another king like David. They yearned for one with roots in Bethlehem. So that’s why Jesus is born in Bethlehem. The emperor of Rome demanded people be registered. He wanted to know where everyone came from. Part of it was taxes. Part of it was control. Everything Rome did was to preserve authority. Rome liked to make lists, to have information, to have control—or at least the appearance of control.

So as the story goes, Joseph and Mary make their way to Bethlehem to be registered. By the time they arrive, all the inns are full. They are allotted a place in the stables, in the center of a circle of huts. And there Jesus is born.

In the meantime, an angel visits some shepherds. They were social outcasts, finding marginalized work. There was no place for them in the inn either—or in the town. The angels proclaim a hopeful message. A savior has been born. He is divine. He is the bringer of peace. It is the exact same message that was proclaimed when Emperor Augustus was born. The word for both announcements was “gospel”—“good news.”

Augustus brought peace through control and intimidation and violence. It was a peace only for the social elites. The peace of Rome didn’t last, of course, though it keeps trying through history, from one empire to another, all the way to the present day.

The angels who visited the shepherds promised something different.

Jesus offers different means towards peace. He replaced self-reliance with trust in God. He replaced self-preservation with compassion and generosity. In place of vengeance Jesus advocated forgiveness.

This is what the Bible means by “justice.” And Jesus was an advocate for biblical justice.

By these means, Jesus offers peace. It is why he is the New David from Bethlehem. It is why he is born to marginalized, harassed people. It is why he is born in such impoverished conditions. It is why shepherds were the first to hear the good news. It is why all who heard it were amazed. Jesus offers peace by different means than Augustus.

So are we there yet? Yes and no. We’ve already been given so much in Christ. We have the assurance of God’s presence, and the confidence of God’s faithfulness. These are the beginnings of peace.

But Christ has also given us so much to do. We’re called to trust God. We’re called to love our enemies, to forgive our persecutors, to serve our neighbors. We’re called to work for peace by Jesus’ methods.

One of the best ways we’ve found to handle the “Are we there yet” question is to envision. We ask, “What do you want to happen when we get there?”

So what will it look like to arrive in the kingdom, not of Augustus, but the Kingdom of God? Some things we want to happen will have to wait. But some things we can begin to do now. But always in the meantime, if we can’t act for justice, we can hope, we can pray, and we can serve.

Are we there yet? No, but we’re getting closer. And God is with us every step of the way.

 

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