In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.3All went to their own towns to be registered.4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.7And 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 them in the inn.
They say that hindsight is 20-20. I don’t know whether that’s the case or not but I think we’re making a mistake if we don’t somehow pay attention to it, somehow incorporate it into our life. Life is not sequential. It is not some neat orderly arrangement of one life event after another. Rather, life is filled with a vast array of memories and occurrences and dreams that are in some way connected and intermingled and always somehow give way to each other. As my grandmother, who lived to the ripe young age of 101 1/2, came into her final years, I had the gift and the privilege of being a part of what I would call her “taking stock”. I spent time driving her around the town in which we both grew up and noting the things that had once been, the things that were, and the things that would someday be. We drove past the Stockdick farm. The house in which she grew up in her early years was no longer there but through her shared memories, there was even for me a faint recollection, memories and images that came flooding in even though it was long before I was born. There was the house and the barn and the tree swing. The tree had remained, a lasting memory of what once was. And then down the road was the Stockdick school. My grandmother remembered every student that had attended there with the exception of one. That bothered her. There were about sixty or so but it still bothered her, as if she had not only forgotten a person but also had forgotten a part of her past. There is a Greek word, “anamnesis”, that we loosely translate as “remembering”. But it is more. It is the taking unto oneself the memories that make up our story, whether or not we were there, whether or not we truly have hindsight. It is what we do when we take Communion. It is also what we do when we read the Scriptures and take them to heart. It is what we do when we remember our story:
It had been a hard trip. Bethlehem seemed an eternity away from the Galilee that she knew. And then there had been that mad scramble to find lodging. She wished that her family had gotten word. But everyone had come to this small city at the samie time. She had known the baby was coming, coming quick. And poor Joseph was in such panic. They had finally bedded down in the back room, the grotto, of someone’s house. It was the part of the house that sheltered the animals. Maybe that wasn’t so bad. They were out of the cold, out of the elements, and away from all of the politics that was going on during that time. But when she looked into his eyes, it all went away–all the chaos, all the rejection, all the stuff of life. She knew that this child was different. She knew that he was destined for greatness. No, that’s not right…he was destined for something more. It didn’t matter where they were. It didn’t matter that they were young and scared. It didn’t matter that that place was not safe or comfortable or the right place to have a baby.
In those days, a child was born. In those days, God came into the world, not bursting into it with fanfare and acclaim, but tiptoeing into a back room, the place that we would least expect God to appear. Indeed, the child was destined for something more. And just a few miles away from this small city of Bethlehem was Jerusalem, the holy city, the future of the world. But it’s good to take stock, especially in this moment of uncertainty and unknowing.
In this holy season, let us remember. Let us remember from where we came. For it is only then that we will know where we are going.
Grace and Peace,