As we celebrate Christmas pray for the people of Aleppo in their darkness. As we witness the scenes of rubble and death in Syria today, remember that over 2,000 years ago, submitting to a madman in a treacherous trip to Bethlehem and later fleeing the cruel tyrant, Herod, Joseph and Mary knew what it was to be a refugee. Please pray for the refugees in dire need as Aleppo has fallen.
On that night 2000 years ago, the mood in Israel was not unlike America in 2016. Disillusionment ruled the day. God had not spoken to Israel for over 400 years. They suffered brutal oppression and were now living under the thumb of Rome. The world wasn’t getting any better and there were no signs of hope. Then, on a seemingly ordinary, rather dreary Bethlehem night, God shattered the darkness of this world. He launched the most powerful covert operation in history.
At its core, Christmas seems a collection of contradictions. From the womb of a peasant girl, came a child that many called illegitimate, Born on a grueling journey at the command of a power hungry ruler. How could God send the one true King in the person of a defenseless baby?
Just as we watch the political wrangling in Washington DC, they saw Caesar Augustus, who led Rome in the tumultuous years following the assassination of his great-uncle and adoptive father Julius Caesar. Shrewdly mixing military might, institution-building and lawmaking, he became Rome's sole ruler, but he was not King of ALL!
At Caesar's command, Joseph and Mary found themselves victims of a senseless census-- homeless, wandering in the darkness of their own home town with no place to stay. Like so many things in the Christmas story, we tend to romanticize this. I think, in many ways, we miss the raw, powerful truth that the stable was dark, smelly, cold & damp. God incarnate arrived on the dirt floor of a filthy stable. Into the darkness came the light.
Meanwhile, in the halls of religion, doctrine was debated and the Pentateuch, prophets and holy writ were studied as the debaters of the age argued nuances of dogma. The veil over their eyes allowed them to see the prophetic evidence of Messiah, but left them in darkness, blind to reality that Messiah was less than 50 miles away.
This good news was not first embraced by presidents, priests, or kings. Not in political halls of power. Not by religion’s hierarchy, intellectual aristocrats, or the culturally elite. Instead it came to common shepherds, the bottom rung of the social order as the Father intentionally crafted this story of universal, unconditional love!
So in Luke 2, in the obscurity of a lonely hillside, we meet shepherds tending their flocks. Light shatters the darkness and the Angel declares: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."
The hillside and the sky was filled with the royal choir of Heaven, angels announcing the glorious entrance of God into the world.