Advent begins this Sunday, November 29. Many of us will have eaten a lot of food, maybe watched some sports or shopped, and hopefully spent some time with family and friends. Are we ready to prepare for Christmas?
This year, we'll read the birth narrative of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke during this Advent Season. When this is announced, I often have people smile remembering past readings and some even begin to recite from the or Revised Standard Versions:
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'ius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. ..."
Except that isn't the beginning of the birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke. Does it matter? Do we need to hear the part of the story that's in Chapter 1?
Well I say "YES!" I say yes because if we don't, we miss much of the "Why did God send Jesus to live among us, fully human, fully divine? What do we miss?
Where: Where does the story start? In Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire where Caesar is found? No, proclaims chapter one; the birth narrative our Savior starts in the Temple in Jerusalem, the holy place of the Hebrew people, the place where God can always be found.
What: What is this story about? Caesar conducting a census at the expense and fear of the common folk so they could be counted among Rome's people? No, proclaims the first chapter; the birth narrative is about God speaking to specific people and sending the Angel Gabriel to speak to others so that they may not fear but know that God is doing a new thing.
Who: Is Caesar the main character; no, God is acting here.
When: When Caesar decrees? or when God speaks?
Why? Well, that's the big question. Why does God send Jesus to dwell among us - fully human, fully divine? What do you miss about God's reason if you miss the first chapter?