Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent: A Time of Obedience

"And it came to pass in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city." (Luke 2:1-3)
Consider the soldier leaving his home and family to lay down his life in battle, to defend his county's borders, to protect the rights of those who will spit on him when -- if -- he returns home; to protect the legal rights of those to burn the very flag he is willing to forsake everything to defend. How about to protect the rights of a corrupt government who supplies rebel forces in other countries with arms in order to overthrow governments from the inside, looting the spoils of espionage and extinguished innocent lives? Or to protect the rights of a government that has completely exploited its people and abandoned the ideals upon which it was founded, with the intent of further lining the pockets and advancing the agendas of one percent of its population, and enslaving the weaker ninety-nine? Consider the average citizen's willingness to obey the law or surrender his rights to life under such circumstances.

The reign of Caesar Augustus, under which Jesus was born, was one of dictatorship rooted in the soil of dominance. The Pax Romana ("Roman Peace") for which Augustus was known, was established by putting down through violence anyone who opposed the emperor's decrees or "divine" authority. Had Joseph refused to embark on the arduous trek to his ancestral town, had he argued the journey would be too much for the expectant Mary, it would not have bode well for him.

This is why I find it incredible the story with which we are so familiar -- almost to the point of eye rolling and distraction -- begins with a cruel, oppressive, sacrilegious, and corrupt government, once again forcing its unreasonable demands on  its subjects for the sake of prospering itself and a select, favored few. God used such a time to bring about a miracle, the Way to salvation and eternal life! All it required from humanity was a few obedient "unknowns." Years later, when Paul was to ask God to remove the burden which afflicted him, the Holy Spirit would assure him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) The Almighty God is masterful at gaining victory through unlikely means.

In today's current international and national climate, when we are tempted not to obey, we must remember that God is not governed by the limitations that govern us. Authorities were established by God; it is He who sets the limits on those who govern us in this world! And He can do great work and give to us a blessing, when His people are obedient -- open, willing, faithful, and unmoved by the natural. Advent is a time when the most miraculous, unbelievable event occurred, in the midst of a most unreceptive, unconducive political climate, using the obedience of a few unremarkable, underprivileged people. Let us never be discouraged by what we see on the news, read from the skeptics, fear in the darkness of night, or hear from the enemy who would see us in chains. Let us obey the King who will one day reign forever.

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