“Word for Today” – Christmas Day – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

December 25, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1).  And so begins one of Christianity’s most beloved stories.  In fact, this story is so beloved and widely known, you could probably tell me the rest of Luke’s story without me quoting another verse.  The journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph.  The lack of room in the inn.  The manger and swaddling clothes.  The nearby shepherds and the glorious angels.  It all seems so quaint – so heartwarming.  But for Mary and Joseph, this first Christmas was anything but the sort.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”  The Greek word for “decree” is dogma.  Just the mention of that word is enough to make many recoil in disdain.  After all, dogma is bad, right?  It’s restrictive, legalistic, and emotionless.  If we’re talking about Caesar’s dogma, the answer is, “Yes.”  After all, it was Caesar’s dogma that sent the whole world scrambling to return to their birth towns to participate in a census, including Mary, who was pregnant at this time:

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (Luke 2:3-5)

Such a journey in Mary’s delicate state would have been anything but pleasant or desirable.  But Mary and Joseph had to make it.  After all, Caesar had laid down his dogma.

But the story of Christmas is the story of two dogmas.  There is the dogma of Caesar, which is heavy handed and harrying.  But then there is another dogma, announced by an angel to some nearby shepherds:  “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  Caesar issues a dogma concerning a census.  An angel announces a dogma concerning a Savior.  And this dogma is not restrictive, legalistic, or emotionless.  Instead, it is a good dogma.  It is the dogma that we can be saved from our sin by our Savior.

Eventually and inevitably, the dogma of Caesar collides with the dogma of Jesus.  And the true sinister nature of Caesar’s dogma is revealed as a campaign of persecution is launched against the Christians, who are accused of “defying Caesar’s dogmas, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (Acts 17:7).  Apparently, Jesus’ dogma of salvation threatened Caesar’s dogma of obedience to the emperor.  And a clash of dogmas ensues.

But on this first Christmas in Luke 2, we learn that a new dogma giver has come to town.  And his name is not Caesar.  His name is Jesus.  And Jesus’ dogma is better than Caesar’s could ever hope to be.  For Jesus’ dogma is one of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  And the best part is, while Caesar’s dogma has long since vanished, Jesus’ dogma remains.  He is still our Savior.  Praise be to God!

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Titus 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Colossians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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