Friday 23rd August
A journey to be made - Luke 1:1-5

'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.) And everyone went to their own town to register. 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.'

Caesar Augustus was probably the most powerful man on earth; he only had to utter a decree and his command would resonate around much of the known world. And so it was that people across the Roman Empire found their lives disrupted, their liberty curtailed, as they were forced to travel to the town of their ancestors, whether or not it was still a place they called home.

The precarious state of a young woman in the late stages of pregnancy was of no concern to the power brokers and big players. She was nothing more that a number to be counted, a pawn in their political schemes, another anonymous entry on the taxation register.

Perhaps some of the lesser officials recognised the unreasonableness of the system with which they had become complicit. But if they raised any serious objection they would simply be replaced by someone more ruthless in their application of the Empire's decrees. This was a world that felt a long way from God's ideal; a world in which people good and bad felt trapped and forced to comply - these were hardly the circumstances in which God's salvation could seriously be at work! At the very least, the God of Salvation could not leave such realities unchallenged.

And these are realities that to us might not feel that unfamiliar. Yet with the hindsight of faith, we see a far more profound narrative unfolding. Bethlehem was God's appointed place for the Messiah to be born and in Mary and Joseph's quiet submission to the schemes and decrees of mere earthly rulers, the King of King and Lord of Lords was fulfilling his purpose. It was not the people who were subject to the will of these earthly rulers, but the rulers themselves who unknowingly became subject to God's purpose.

Our world may often leave us feeling similarly trapped; we may seethe at the abuse of power and oppression that can be unleashed by those who consider this world to be their own. And while we need not remain silent in its face, not should we despair or believe our cause defeated. This precarious journey to Bethlehem reminds those fragile followers of Jesus who walk this world's pathways of darkness and struggle, that God might yet be at work in ways unseen and unimaginable.

God of Justice and Truth, may we not remain silent in the face of oppression, and may we never assume defeat when it appears to prevail - AMEN

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