Newborn Beginning . . . after Caesar
An Advent prayer by Walter Brueggemann
The Christ Child is about to be born,
the one promised by the angel.
Mary’s “fullness of time” has arrived.
Except that the birth is scheduled
according to the emperor:
A decree went out that all should be numbered.
Caesar decreed a census, everyone counted;
Caesar intended to have up-to-date data for the tax rolls;
Caesar intended to have current lists of draft eligibility;
Caesar intended taxes to support armies,
because the emperor, in whatever era,
is always about money and power,
about power and force,
about force and control,
and eventually violence.
And while we wait for the Christ Child,
we are enthralled by the things of Caesar–
money . . . power . . . control,
and all the well-being that comes from
such control, even if it requires a little violence.
But in the midst of the decree
will come this long-expected Jesus,
full of grace and truth,
grace and not power,
truth and not money,
mercy and not control.
We also dwell in the land of Caesar;
we pray for the gift of your spirit,
that we may loosen our grip on the things of Caesar,
that we may turn out eyes toward the baby,
our ears toward the newness,
our hearts towards the gentleness,
our power and money and control
toward your new governance.
We crave the newness.
And while the decree of the emperor
rings in our ears with such authority,
give us newness that we may start again
at the beginning,
that the innocence of the baby may
intrude upon our ambiguity,
that the vulnerability of the child may
veto our lust for control,
that we may be filled with wonder
and so less of anxiety,
in the blessed name of the baby we pray.
Walter Brueggemann. Prayers for a Privileged People. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008.