DISCLAIMER: Yes, we know there was no such thing as e-mail back then. It’s unlikely that Mary called Elizabeth “Girl,” and who even knows the name of Herod’s guard? Certain aspects of this wonderful and beautiful story have been “tweaked” for dramatic purposes. Our goal is to look deeper into the story, to wonder what these people may have been thinking. We want to help your youth group see the birth of the Christ child as if it were happening for the first time. We’d like you and them to experience the joy and awe as they did so long ago on the first Christmas.
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
To: Commander Cornelius Baruri, 3rd Regimental Squad, Rome
From: Office of King Herod, Confidential
I have need of your skills.
It has come to my attention that we are under attack — that the very freedoms we fight for are being threatened, not from an army outside the city walls but from within.
A short time ago, a group of astrologers from the east showed up at my gate. Old men. Learned. They seemed to think a new king is to be born — not of my line, but from elsewhere, beyond Jerusalem and beyond the protection of Rome.
These men believe some sort of ancient prophesy is being fulfilled: that a baby is going to be born who will be greater than all other leaders. Caesar Augustus has called me personally to Rome to tell me of his concerns. He, too, had heard of these prophesies. The street-corner preachers in the markets are growing in number, and all of them are saying our time is coming to an end. We were having these so-called prophets jailed and still they shouted from their cells. So we had them killed, and then something happened. The people started to listen. The more we tried to silence the shouters in the markets the more people wanted to hear what they had to say. I sense a growing resentment. We cannot have this.
I am assigning you and a few of your most trusted soldiers to a mission of the utmost secrecy. We cannot have this sort of insurrection. If the people believe the next king is to be born near us then they will do what they can to hide him from us.
Caesar has declared this to be a time for a census. He is always counting. Always organizing. Always trying to make the people stand up and move for him. He is like a child playing with blocks. However, I am thinking that we may be able to use this census to our advantage.
One of the old leaders of the Jews has been preaching that their scrolls show clearly that their future leader will be born very soon and very close to us. I sent for him. Had him show me in these writings where his ideas come from. Then I had him killed.
We cannot handle an uprising, even one so far off. This is how those people work. They claim innocence. They ask how a baby can be so threatening. As you know, it is not this child to be born that concerns me; it is that this people believe he is their Savior. That he will lead them out of there bondage. What bondage? These people never had it so good!
We will allow for Caesar’s census. I want you to station your men in the surrounding area. They are to keep the peace. They are to patrol the streets. I am not expecting any sign of rebellion, but I do not want to see them hope. I need you and your men to listen. Listen to see if there is any talk of a King of kings. Listen to hear if there is any whisper of a coming Messiah. Above all, keep track of the children. Know where they are. If you see a group of Jews hiding something, find out what it is. If you see a group of them doing something suspicious, stop them. Tell the inns to turn people away, and then arrest those who are on the streets.
You do not need my permission to do what is required of you to keep us and our way of life safe. Tell me after it’s over. I will see to it that you are rewarded.
In Caesar’s name,
The second Advent candle is lighted during the reading of Scripture.
Psalms 16:1-11 (NIV)
1 Keep of me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.
5 Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
God, be with those who are afraid; those who are afraid of losing, afraid of the dark, afraid of loss, afraid of change. Help us to make room for Your Son in our chaotic lives. The chaos is of our own creation. Help us to be open to the peace and presence that is Your Son. Amen.