Luke 2:1-14 double vision
Have you ever gone to a 3D movie? You know the ones, where you have to
wear those silly looking glasses with one red coloured lens and the other blue? Before the movie starts, no one wants to look silly, so the special glasses are not put on! As you begin to watch the 3D movie without the glasses, everything seems to be doubled up, nothing seems to be connected, one picture seems to overlap the other; yet they are the same picture. You can watch the movie, but it is very difficult to really see what is actually going on. It is only when you put on the special glasses, do you see clearly and enjoy the 3D special effects. With the glasses on, the doubled pictures become one and then you become part of the movie, those with out the glasses remain watching in double vision and have no concept of what is going on.
St Luke deliberately opens the miracle of the first Christmas Day, when God the creator of the universe enters into his creation as a baby, with a very grandiose earthly introduction ‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.’ An earthly king, who’s reign is short and who’s life as a man is but a shadow, as Job says ‘He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow,’ gains great notoriety and power with his announcement and plans to unite Rome and conquer the world, as reflected in Luke’s account.
Jesus, on the other hand, the creative word of God, who is born Christ the Lord, king of heaven, who has dominion over rulers and principalities, who entered into the world of this earthly king; into the earthly affairs and organization structures of the Roman Empire, gains little notoriety, Luke writes ‘and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’ Two kings, two kingdoms, two rulers, both with their purpose to conquer and rule, both with plans to unite and call home their subjects. One is known everywhere on earth, the other, Jesus, is known only by a few.
Like when we go to the 3D movies without the special glasses on and we only see double, it appears to be a confusing doubling up; two kings, two plans, two kingdoms, yet two completely different purposes; one earthly, one heavenly; one seen one unseen. Caesar’s rule has its purpose and fulfillment in this life. Jesus’ rule has its purpose and fulfillment in the life to come at the end of time. There seems to be no connection what so ever between the two. Caesar’s rule, or for that matter, any earthly ruler, seems more important to us. Jesus rule here on earth has little or no significance for our life now, his birth as a heavenly king only finds its purpose for our life after we die. Double vision!
We often suffer this double vision, this disconnectedness between our life now and the relevance of Jesus’ birth for us today, because of sin. Our sinful nature blinds us to the reality, to the hope and to the joy that Jesus birth in Bethlehem was to redeem all people from the bondage to sin. The devil blinds us to the good news that Jesus does rule in our life now. Double vision stops us from seeing that Jesus’ birth as Lord and saviour means he rules now and in eternity; we are blind and cannot see the hope Jesus can bring in our life now, as Jesus said ‘For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
The one special Christmas word, the gospel word that enables us to see again and to connect the importance of Jesus birth to our life now, the one word we need to hear to correct our double vision, is this…‘today’. The gospel word ‘today’! ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’ The word ‘today’, that the angel spoke as part of the announcement, meant that right at that very moment, Jesus was already ‘Christ the Lord’.
‘Today’, the angel announced, while nothing had changed and the shepherds watched their sheep, baby Jesus was already the good shepherd, Christ the Lord, who shepherds people from their sins. Today, while Caesar was busy counting his people, Jesus was NOT counting sins against humanity, as Paul writes in 2 Cor ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.’ As the angel spoke those words, ‘today’ right at that very moment salvation dawned upon all people and it will continue to dawn on every man, woman and child until Jesus’ return.
Jesus emphasized the fact that his kingly rule justified sinners ‘today’, that is, immediately, in the lives of those still living, by using the same gospel word ‘today’, as the angel did on that first Christmas night. To Zacchaeus the tax collector, Jesus said ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’ To the man still hanging on the cross, who could do nothing but die, Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’
The gospel word ‘today’ brings the first Christmas, the birth of Jesus as Christ the Lord into our lives. The word ‘today’ brings salvation to our house; it is ‘today’ that we will surely be with Jesus in paradise. Jesus’ word is living and active…it says what it does and does what it says. That is why there is no dualism in life, no double vision, no separating Jesus from our everyday life. Because of the gospel word of Jesus ‘today’, our whole life is one with Christ who paid the ransom for sin and redeemed us to himself on the cross.
Today, as you hear and believe Jesus’ word ‘whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned,’ you are the recipient and the joyful hearer of the of the angel’s Christmas message ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’