First Week of Advent Tuesday—Luke 1:5-8; Psalm 68
Luke opens the Christmas story not with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus but another trio of characters: Herod, king of Judea, and two Jews, Zachariah and his wife, Elizabeth. And everything seems all-wrong from the beginning.
First, Herod is not the rightful king of the Jews, but a murderous, puppet-king of Rome, who proved he would kill even his family members to protect his crown, whether the threats are real or imagined. Herod’s tyrannical rule is a grim reminder that the Jews live under Roman occupation as an oppressed people. In Rome’s empire, a small group of elites (about 2-3% of the population) rule, owning the land and labor force and consuming 65% of its resources. Everyone else (Jews, too) lives in varying degrees of poverty. Rome’s army secures and maintains Rome’s power and rule. Failure to comply with Rome’s laws results in swift and ruthless military action. Politics and religion are not separate, and no one pretends that they are. Rome believes its victory and rule to be divinely sanctioned. In other words, the victory and rule of Rome proves the goddess Roma and Caesar (the son of god) superior to all other local gods, including the Jewish God, Yahweh.
Second, our two righteous, obedient Jews from Aaron's priestly line find themselves childless and too old to hope that will change. In the Bible’s world, people viewed childlessness as a disgrace and as the result of a defect in the woman. Believing Yahweh (or the gods, depending who you worshiped) rewards the obedient and punishes the disobedient, any sort of malady was seen as result of sin. Of course, Jesus corrects this misunderstanding about the ways and heart of Yahweh during His ministry. (See John 9:1-3.) But for now, imagine the struggle and the disgrace for Zachariah and Elizabeth, for this is their reality. Finally, let’s be honest. When people think rescue-mission-participant, the young, robust, and able-bodied comes to mind not the elderly, arthritic, and culturally shamed!
All-wrong? Seems that way. But God is, apparently, neither conventional nor deterred by obstacles. And the powers of earthly kings and their kingdoms neither pose a threat nor prove to be a formidable opponent for Yahweh.
Does everything seem all-wrong in your life or, maybe, in the world? Make a list of your perceived all-wrong obstacles. Then, spend some time in prayer declaring God’s superiority over each obstacle.