During Advent and Christmas, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this week, we are focused on reflections on Luke 2:1-7, the story of Jesus’ birth.
1In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
The census did not come at a convenient time for Mary and Joseph. No one asked if it would be comfortable for them to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem while very pregnant. Caesar Augustus did not consult their calendars, check with their doctors, or survey their opinions. The decree was made, and the couple had no choice but to make the trek. Mary and Joseph had very little control of their circumstances. They could not even find a bed for the night! All they could do was live faithfully and trust in God’s provision and care. And, it is out of the darkness of this time, that God-with-us was born as the light of the world. In the midst of great stress and difficulty, God birthed the One who would usher in peace, love, joy, and hope unlike ever before.
When the pandemic hit, it came like the decree. It was not something we were comfortable with, anything we wanted, and it certainly was not convenient for our churches. It hit and we had no choice but to make the trek and keep going. Through this season General Conference has been postponed, our churches have had to learn how to practice ministry in new ways, we have had challenge upon challenge and right when we are ready to collapse for the night, we can’t even find room in the inn.
Siblings in Christ, may we, in the darkest hours cling to the good news of Christmas and hold fast to the hope that God with us is being born again and again. May we believe with our very lives, that the light of the world still shines brightly. May we, even in the midst of our own great stress and difficulty, trust that God will use even this pandemic to usher in peace, love, joy, and hope through us, through our ministries, and through our churches.
By the Rev. Jessica Campbell
For Pondering & Prayer
As we continue to trek through the pandemic, when have you experienced darkness?
How have you clung to the Light of the World and known deep in your soul that God is still with us?
What is God calling you to do or be to further the good news of Christmas today?
Prayer: Holy God, Christmas has passed, and we look into a new year. May we look for ways for you to use us for your work in the world. Amen.