You may have noticed in yesterday’s reading of the gospel (Luke 3:1-6) that Luke tried to take us to a particular place and time. He was careful in his “orderly account” (Luke 1:1) to date John the Baptizer’s proclamation by naming those who were in power. He listed a king, a governor, three rulers, and two high priests to give his hearers a sense of the time period. It was a more vivid description (and a more typical way of doing history in those times) than saying “in the year 28” or “about 50 years ago.” Think of the descriptive difference between, “I was born in 1974” and “I was born during the first months of Gerald Ford’s presidency, in the final months of Governor West’s term, a few months before the end of the Vietnam War, and in a time when ‘The Way We Were’ topped the charts.”
Luke located John (and Jesus) using references of people in authority. It’s telling that the people with lasting authority in Luke’s story are the two no one would have known about before it is told. No one would claim to be a subject of Tiberius or Herod anymore; there are no more disciples of Annas or Caiaphas. It’s only John and Jesus who still have people turning to them for a word from the Lord; it’s only Jesus who is still having people pledge their lives to him.
Luke’s telling of the story encourages us to use our imagination. What must it have been like to have those men in charge? What was it like for John to occupy the wilderness? What is it like to take John up on the invitation to prepare our lives for the coming of the Messiah?
This week I’m going to give you a few extra emails. The Bidding Prayer that is used in this coming Sunday’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is something that I want to explore with you. I’ll give you a portion of the prayer each day and a quick (I promise!) thought about it.
Today’s thought is this: it’s important to allow our imaginations to take us to places in the Bible. Imagining those settings, the people involved, the experiences being shared helps the scenes move from an “orderly account” to a story that takes hold of our lives, a story that might just disorder our lives in all kinds of holy ways.
Here’s the introduction to the Bidding Prayer:
Beloved in Christ, as we approach the Christmas Season, it is our duty and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels, and to go in heart and mind to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.