In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign… that’s like saying; in the fifteenth year of Michael D. Higgins presidency. I know that can’t happen but just go with the argument!
When Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea… equates with when Enda Kenny was Taoiseach.
When Herod was tetrarch of Galilee… which broadly equates with when Tony Dempsey was Chairman of Wexford County Council.
During the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas… when Denis Brennan was bishop of Ferns
So the events leading up to the birth of the Christ-child are put in a political ‘State’ context, but also in a religious ‘Church’ context which itself gives the events a definite date.
But watch what happens next. The Word of God came not to any of the political-State or religious-Church agencies but to John son of Zechariah (again a particular John) in the wilderness!
How God loves to do that, to by-pass the establishment! It’s how he manifests his greatness, his absolute sovereignty. It’s the laughter of God. God loves to surprise us.
The Word issued through John has two parts.
Firstly, it’s a call to repentance, to prepare our hearts. This part belongs to us. We must do it. It’s called Advent.
Secondly, it announces that something will be accomplished, the distance between God and man (that most of us perceive intuitively) described as valleys, mountains, hills, winding roads, rough paths will be flattened and straightened because God will leave Heaven and become human child.
The implication here is that the absence of God which so many experience is more our doing than God’s.
The final lines tell us that in this child all mankind will see the salvation of God. Huge! In this child, not every child but this particular child, not wealth, not a career, not your partner, husband, wife, lover… In this child resides the salvation of God – and the salvation of God must also mean human salvation.
So, as the Word of God invites us to prepare our hearts for the Child’s arrival I ask you a question, one that I’m asking myself too: In what have you placed your salvation?
Remember, we choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them. Gibran.