In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (Luke 2:1, NIV).
By Allen Teal, Rolla Presbyterian Manor chaplain
Luke, the writer of the third account of the life of Christ, used a phrase that is still familiar today to introduce the birth of Jesus—“In those days.” While Luke only intended to tell us that around the same time that angels announced two miraculous births, the emperor called for a census. However, a greater message is delivered by these three simple words.
“Those days” were bringing about a new day.
Those were the days when the calendar was being divided to make room for the birth of a savior. Those days marked the winding down of the Old Testament law so a new day of grace could emerge. It was a transition from the thundering violence of Mount Sinai to the time when faith in Jesus Christ would become the pathway to salvation.
“Those days” marked the opening of the curtain covering God’s Mercy Seat.
The curtain in the temple hiding the Mercy Seat will not be ripped apart for three decades. The events surrounding the birth of Christ are a prologue to a new hope and a new life. In Christ, the invisible God is revealed to all people. Shipwrecked lives can be made new by participating in the mercy of God. “Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).
“Those days” opened up a new future.
Heaven is not very well defined in the Old Testament. Allusions about going to heaven are somewhat muted and scattered. In the New Testament, heaven becomes knowable and attainable. Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms… 3 and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3, NIV). The Christ of Christmas offers a salvation that goes beyond the blessings available in a human lifespan. The Apostle Paul said it like this: “For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, KJV).