We are coming down the homestretch of Advent. We have looked at the backstory of the main characters. Joseph, the man who will become known as the human father of Jesus, has genealogy tracing him to King David and Abraham. Mary traces back to Abraham and Judah of Jacob….back to Seth and Adam. Angels have visited both Joseph and Mary to confirm the pregnancy is of God. Zechariah, the priest, and his old wife Elizabeth have miraculously conceived in their old age and born John who becomes known as John the Baptist who will introduce Jesus onto the public stage. Possibly the wise men have started their journey. The gospel of Mark traces the fulfillment of prophecy going back to Isaiah in the Old Testament. And the gospel of John just says outright that the baby Jesus’ birth we celebrate this week is God appearing in our time and space.
So what was the trigger event that got the ball rolling? For Luke it is the decree by Caesar Augustus that all travel to the homes of their heritage and be counted. That is not how we would do it today. But it places the birth of Jesus in researchable history. “A triggering event is a tangible or intangible barrier or occurrence which, once breached or met, causes another event to occur. Triggering events include job loss, retirement, or death, and are typical for many types of contracts,” according to wikipedia. A trigger event sets in motion a series of events. Perhaps we might call it an event that forces us to choose a course of action. By choosing to go to a certain college, a person might meet a certain person whom becomes his or her spouse. The choice to embrace a faith tradition affects our moral decisions, our social decisions and our whole identity. The census that was a decision in Rome and took time to communicate to Israel was the event that got Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.
Can you think of an event that was really life changing, a trigger event, for you, that set in motion a series of events. My father was transferred to Los Angeles and us kids were dropped off at my uncle’s home and he handed me a book about a missionary in Africa. I was only 14 years old but that event impacted the course of my life. Trigger events may not seem that important at the time. I doubt that Joseph and Mary foresaw just how they would be fulfilling the prophecy of Bethlehem or flight to Egypt or eventually raising Jesus in Nazareth. Often it is as we look in our rear view mirror that we can see the hand of God guiding and protecting us in the events of our life.
Spend a few minutes naming an event that changed your life and that now you see the hand of God guiding you and perhaps protecting you. Thank God for the “census” in your life!