Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Homeless Jesus?

I don't like the image of the homeless Mary and Joseph - I just don't think it at all accurately depicts the situation they were in. But there is an image from the modern world that I do think has a greater Christmas resonance, though again it is hardly exact.

Why were Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem? As Luke tells it (from the New International Version - it's what I have handy):

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the enture Roman world (this was the first census that too place while while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galiliee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because be belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him, and was expected a child.

Luke 2:1-5

In other words they were uprooted by the bureaucratic diktat. How similar is this to our everyday experience? I imagine nearly everyone has there own nightmare tale of encoutering government bureaucracy. Most of us will be compelled to do something because of some bureaucratic decree. All of us are required to register this and that - though fortunately we don't have to travel to our "home town" to do so. We may, or may not, physically stay in the same place, but I imagine we all know people whose lives have been uprooted in one way or other by some bureaucratic process. Perhaps even our own lives have been similarly effected.

And that is one of the great mysteries of Christmas, is how human it is. Amongst all the other things it is about and it signifies, and it is about a great many things, it is also about a family struggling to deal with the bureaucratic impositions of its day.

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