Day 14: Thursday 14th December – Luke 2:1-4  ‘Our plans, God’s plans’

Luke 2:1-4

If you’ll allow a brief return to a day we’d probably rather forget: on 23rd March 2020, the UK entered a full national lockdown for the first time in 100 years.  One immediate effect of this was that all church buildings were shut.  No services of any sort could be held.  What would happen to God’s Church? 

From the very beginning, our pattern of faith has been built around physical gatherings – the very word ‘church’ is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘assembly’.  Understandably there was considerable fear – yet in mid-April 2020, a survey of UK residents indicated that 25% of the population had accessed an online act of Christian worship within the last month.   Given that the equivalent face-to-face figure for average monthly in-person attendance is around 10%, this was astonishing news. 

Humans decide, God acts.  So often things that might seem to be problems only unleash a new work of God in different ways.   It took the forced shutting of our buildings by the current government to unleash a mighty new wave of mission that reached millions of people – and whilst 2021 has been immensely challenging for many churches, some of the ways we adapted continue to bear fruit: after all, you’re reading this on the church website right now!

God is not ‘apart’ from what happens on earth.  He might give us freedom, but equally God is so great he is well able to use the calculated decisions of human leaders and authorities to achieve his purposes.  In today’s reading, Caesar wants to raise money from taxing the populations he ruled – it is what powerful people have done since time immemorial.  But in the midst of the process, God resolved a conundrum written into the biblical prophets for hundreds of years.  How would the Messiah come from both Galilee and Bethlehem? 

The answer – a census, at just the right time in history when fading Greek power nevertheless left the legacy of widespread use of the Greek language, allowing easy communication between people and therefore sharing of ideas/messages; when recently upgraded Roman infrastructure allowed the easy movement of people to spread a new message; and, crucially when a young descendent of King David had to travel from Galilee to Bethlehem with his young, heavily pregnant wife.

It doesn’t matter whether Caesar would have made the decision to tax anyway. The point is that God used it to birth something – someone – remarkable, that would change the world and the course of history. 

God is good.  God is also great.  Let’s commit ourselves again today into the mighty and merciful hands of this amazing God.  The future once again seems uncertain: let’s continue to trust in his capacity to achieve his good purposes in all circumstances.