The Unbelievable-But-True Story of Christmas Past and Present
By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor
Has the thought ever crossed your mind that the angels’ song, “Peace on earth and good will towards men,” is a wonderful and wistful sentiment, perfect for a Christmas carol, maybe a goal to work towards, but really not very useful or even true for everyday life? If so, hold on. There’s more to the story.
Angels are smart. There must have been a good reason for them to belt out that promise from heaven to earth with such robust gusto. Look at it this way: For millennia they had witnessed firsthand God promising through the prophets that one day the Messiah would come to bring God’s rule to Israel and to the world. That makes for headline news in heaven. Do angels have adrenaline? I don’t know. But I can imagine the highly potent, spiritually charged atmosphere when they saw Jesus—the One they knew in Heaven as the Prince of Peace—born to Mary in a cattle trough! “There He is!” they shouted in amazement.
“Let’s go tell those shepherds that peace has touched down on earth! The Son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God about whom Isaiah wrote is there among fellow humans!”
Any one of a myriad of other events could have locked in their attention. Like political corruption, forced worship of Caesar, rampant immorality. But now was the time for angels to sing and evangelists to write about the most spectacular event to ever hit planet earth: A baby whose name was declared to be “Immanuel, God with us” was born! Not just an everyday kind of birth, mind you, but hear this, God was born on earth as a baby boy…through a virgin! Take two silent minutes to ponder that thought.
Here’s something you could do to experience the original exhilaration of the promise of peace. Imagine yourself there at the manger-trough scene looking at Jesus, talking to Him. Nothing else would matter. Now imagine that you are at the manger this year. Look around at your world of 2013 and compare it with the world of busy Bethlehem in 5 AD. Nothing has changed much. Every year is retro.
Politics are the same. When Jesus was born, the national population was forced to comply with a government decree mandating that everyone register for a national census. Sound familiar?
Players haven’t changed. Bethlehem merchants busily engaged in selling their wares to the crowds arriving for the census; malls, outlets and online stores scrambling to market their goods to the crowds of holiday shoppers; families traveling both then and now, whether out of obligation, or not; and angels, always on the move out there somewhere.
People and problems are identical. Some are thinking about the Messiah, others don’t care. Good and evil co-exist. Wars and rumors of war rumble on.
Here’s the best of what never changes: Jesus. He’s why you can have peace while on earth. Jesus and Jehovah are one and the same, the eternal God from everlasting to everlasting, the same yesterday, today and forever in His unchanging character, the One who is supremely loyal to you in His loving-kindness, which propelled Him to repeatedly and emphatically promise, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.”
Peace is rooted in the security and certainty that God is sovereign over your life, that He loves you, is faithful to you and desires only good for you. When evil and wrong come your way, and they will, Jesus gives you His grace to be victorious in your weakness.
The awe of the promised Messiah appearing on earth never ceases. The messiness of the world never changes. Jesus was born into a world of chaos, because that’s where a Savior thrives, that’s where people of then and now can look at Him with great relief and exclaim, “Look, there’s Jesus, God with us!”
Be like the angels in Christmas 2013. Herald His coming! Focus the eye of your mind only on Jesus, on His very real presence. Do you see Him standing beside you? Do you sense His life within you? You can still be bothered by the problems of the world, concerned over troubles of your own, frustrated by the indifference, even the animosity, of society towards Jesus. The bent of darkness has always been to dilute, detract, or delete His influence. You can be burdened by the complete unawareness of millions of the world’s peoples about their Savior. Living with all these things form part of living on earth with Immanuel.
Above all else, may His never-ending wonder—not your retro worries—fill your mind. Then you will have peace on earth and good will towards men.