“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” Luke 2:1-2
Do you mind if we take a few minutes and think about THE TIMING of what I’m calling an “Eternal Event?” Luke says the story unfolded “In those days.” I’ve asked myself what was different or special about those days? In this instance, the ‘High’ (Augustus) Caesar issued an order that all those under his rule were to be taxed. At his own considerable expense and inconvenience, each and every citizen had to go back to his birthplace to register. We aren’t told what kind of records were kept; or where; or how the totals were calculated and collected… or what the penalty might be for default. This may have been the most convenient, most efficient way to register and pay taxes from the Roman government’s point of view. In absolute power, what care had they for poor, miserable, inferior peasants?
Do you get the picture? Rome, the much despised, wielded cruel, savage power using a mailed fist like a sledge hammer. The iron toed Roman boot on the necks of the Jews ground down and humiliated an intensely stubborn and proud people. They must have felt they’d been grabbed by the neck like a chicken with taxes wrung out to the last shekel. And we grumble and complain about “hard times” and bad times and downturns in our economy and a looming bona fide “depression” and deprivation. I doubt most of us even know what hardship, destitution and deprivation really are. In those days, they knew the meaning of suffering ~economic, mental, physical, and spiritual to the point of tortured exhaustion. They sighed and trudged wearily along, wondering perhaps if each step and breath would be their last. . . and not really caring if it were.
That’s what it was like, in those days. Tired. Weary. Oppressed. Crushed down. Defeated. The known world labored restlessly under the militarily enforced “PAX Romana.” After centuries of trial and error, failed policies, disappointed philosophical and religious quests, historians tell us a certain “taedium vitae” (tiredness of life*) hung like a heavy pall. Even those who held onto the Messianic hope, did it very tentatively, only half-heartedly. “How long, O Lord, How Long?” they wondered collectively. “Haven’t we had enough?”
IN THOSE DAYS…I’m REALLY intrigued by a couple of words and phrases in what we consider the “Nativity Narratives.” That is one of them. In my thinking, though, this is how Luke plants this story in human history. . . in time and on terra firma. He’s not soaring around in space in some ‘Never-Never Land.’ It is obvious what he’s talking about. And Who. And when. And where. He isn’t talking here about some lofty, unidentifiable, impersonal deity inhabiting some lofty pinnacle of mythical mystical Mount Olympus and hurling lightning bolts across the universe. Luke is speaking about a real baby boy. Born in REAL TIME. Breathing, crying, nursing, sleeping peacefully in Mother Mary’s arms or there nestling and snuggling on the straw in the makeshift baby bed which had been borrowed from the farm animals and hastily improvised to meet an “emergency.” What a sight! What a night!!!
It all took place “in those days.” I’ve been asking myself: “What was so special about “those days?” Nothing. Nothing at all as far as I can tell.
Until you take into account that on one of them Jesus was born. Perhaps a day JUST LIKE THIS ONE! Can you imagine?
In some sense, the darkest days provided the perfect backdrop for a miracle. The kind of “times that try men’s souls” turned out to be, in fact, the days in which “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.”
What matters to now, though, isn’t just about what happened then…so long ago and so far away “in those days.” Not then. But now. What effect does this message have upon me IN THESE DAYS?
GOD’S friend, your brother, friend, and fellow student ~donkimrey~
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(*I did take a little bit of Latin and have read a little history and philosophy. Where else could I have used such a phrase? I called my high school math teacher a few days ago to tell him in all the years I’d studied, he remains the BEST teacher I ever had. In four years in his classes, I learned more about math and life principles than perhaps anywhere else outside my Mom’s influence. We enjoyed a pleasant telephone reunion, and some of the years seemed to disappear and pleasant memories emerged. Somewhere in there I reminded him that “The sum of the square of the hypoteneuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the opposite two sides.” )