In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. … Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
– Luke 2:1-2 & 5 (NRSV)

In those days, households were required to register with their provinces for the purpose of being taxed by the Roman Empire. Some complied. Some resisted. Some fled. Some revolted against a headcount that served only to extract money from oppressed communities.

In these days, adults working in the U.S. are required to register with the Social Security Administration for the purpose of paying taxes. For some adults, compliance begins with the registration of a Social Security Number. For others who are barred from registration, non-compliance is necessary for working and living.

In these days, photo identification cards are frequently required to purchase prescriptions, pick up packages, drive a motor vehicle, or pay with a check. Many comply. Some resist, as photo IDs represent an infraction upon their religious beliefs.

In these days, proof of vaccination can be required to work, to attend school, to travel, to dine or to dance. Some are complying. Some are resisting. Some are seeking exemption.

In these days, as in those days, required registrations shape our lives—no matter if we comply or resist.

In those days, as in these days, God’s work within, through, around, and beyond us continues without fail—no matter our registration status.

Prayer: God Most Holy, God Made Flesh, navigating all these social regulations and government registrations is a daily spiritual exercise. On this holy eve, we wait in expectation for the Miracle that unfolds within—yet is unhindered by—the demands of this world.

also posted with the Daily Devotional

Daydream Believer

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouths filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy. – Psalm 126:1-2a (NRSV)

Is it better to dream or to be practical? To envision a new world, a just world, an honorable world … or to observe the world as it is without illusion?

I’m more of the latter sort. The “daydreaming won’t make a hard day easier” sort. The “it doesn’t make a difference whether you say ‘half full’ or ‘half empty,’ because either way you have half a cup” sort.

Not pessimistic. Realistic.

Except, of course, that I do dream.

I dream of peace. Of safety. Of well-being and joy. Of sowing and reaping purposefully, gratefully. Of stretching and relaxing and being—without a crick in my neck, a knot in my shoulder, and an anxious eye on my bank account.

Calling myself a realist is just a cover really, a ruse to avoid admitting that I expect to be disappointed by unrealized dreams.

Maybe you live that way, too—with the expectation of disappointment.

The season of Advent, then, becomes our time to practice daydreaming without hesitation, without skepticism or reluctance, without a backup plan in case of disappointment. The promise of Advent’s dream has already been fulfilled! The experience of Advent’s dream is already spelled out for us: Tears turning to laughter. Displaced people returning home. A shoot pushing up from a stump. A word becoming flesh.

In Advent, we dream without disappointment.

Prayer: Here is my joy, O God—not conditional or tentative, but full and free. Here is the song on my tongue, O God, unburdened by doubt and bitterness. Here is my laughter, O God, as my mouth tastes the sweet goodness of your realized dream.

also published with the Daily Devotional

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