No room at the inn?
Read Luke 2:1-20.
These words from the Gospel of Luke are familiar to many of us at this time of year, often heard in the warm glow of carols by candlelight, evoking memories of tea-towel nativity plays:
‘In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.’ (Luke 2:1-3)
However, this year these words carry a stranger echo, not only for 'those days' but also in these days.
Registration of all the world in those days symbolised life in the Roman Empire. Registration was for the purpose of taxation. As theologian Ron Allen has observed, 'In a bitter irony, by paying taxes to Rome, the residents of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee would pay for the oppression and violence visited upon them by Rome.'
The command to return 'to their own towns to be registered' coming from a Syrian governor takes on a different irony in these days.
The current registration of those seeking refuge from Syria, and other countries immersed in protracted conflict, is a means to monitor and control the movement of people. It is also a means to decide whether to provide refuge. And too often there is still no room at the inn.
‘And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for him in the inn.' (Luke 2:7)
This Christmas, Christian Aid is telling the story of not only those seeking refuge beyond their borders, but also those who do so within. Some 65 million people across the world are in search of a safe place to call home. Many are seeking safety within their own country as internally displaced people, because there is no place for them in their own home.
Angelique was forced from her home and all that was secure in her life.
Captured from her house in a small village in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angelique was repeatedly raped by armed men.
But that was nowhere near the end of her ordeal. Because she had been raped, her husband rejected her. Angelique was homeless and abandoned to darkness.
There is much need to light the way for people like Angelique this Christmas.
And as we rest our eyes on the bundle of hope in the manger, and witness those who visited first, we get to see again who this good news was and is for, first and foremost.
It wasn't to the Roman Emperor or to the King that news of this divine baby was heralded. It was to the lowly shepherds watching their flocks by night that news first came. Shepherds who hadn't gone anywhere to be registered, whose home was sleeping with sheep in a field.
With the heralding of the baby's first cry we already begin to see the fulfilment of Mary's song from Luke 1. This is good news, first and foremost for the poor, the stranger and the lowly.
And everywhere that the poor, the stranger and the lowly are included, welcomed and respected, Mary's song is still being sung. This hope in swaddling bands 'brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly'. And that is good news indeed.
Read our prayers for this month.
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