When thinking about Christmas, realize that you came into the world having nothing to do with your birth; you showed up without planning it. When Jesus came into the world, it was completely voluntary and it was the most dangerous mission ever undertaken by a Baby.
He came knowing the battles He would face and knowing the ultimate end of His life on earth would be a week like no week in human history. He came to live, die and be resurrected in the greatest drama mankind has ever seen.
Think about what He walked into with His eyes wide open. Rome was a corrupt government morally and spiritually. Their sins were shamelessly committed in the open. The death of innocents in the Coliseum was a major form of entertainment. Their emperors wanted to be worshiped and their gods were lustful, evil creations. Rome spread the darkness of paganism in every place that they had influence.
The local ruler in Jerusalem, Herod, was a notorious madman. He was made king by the Roman Senate, which proclaimed him “King of Judea.” He was installed in his position by the Roman army which forced him on the people. He wasn’t even Jewish. He was an Edomite.
Once in power, he immediately killed forty-five of the wealthiest citizens and confiscated their property for his own use. He was incurably ill, nearly 70-years-old, and insane in Matthew 2 when the Magi came looking for Jesus. While the killing of all the male babies in Bethlehem under two years of age shocks us, it was typical of Herod. He had slaughtered his sons and executed his favorite wife, Mariamne; why wouldn’t he kill babies in Bethlehem?
Even the good guys, the religious Pharisees, would be enemies of Jesus. His message would unsettle and irritate them until they would finally conspire and bring about His execution in the cruelest way possible—crucifixion.
All of that is just to show how dark the world was when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Between the immoral Romans, wicked Herod and arrogant religious leaders, it wasn’t a place most of us would have chosen to enter. Yet, Jesus came into that world voluntarily. He came right into our darkness, deliberately stepping into it, experiencing it in all its horror and terror. He did this in love in order that there might be light for us.
It was a wicked world that received the Baby in Bethlehem; but because of His willingness to enter our darkness, the angels were able to announce: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Christmas means that God was willing to come into a dark place and bring the light of salvation. Because of Him, salvation is available to all of us.
Robert Robinson was an English clergyman who lived in the 18th century. Not only was he a gifted pastor and preacher, he was also a highly gifted poet and hymn writer. However, after many years in the pastorate his faith began to wane. He left the ministry and moved to Paris where he indulged in an ungodly lifestyle.
One night he was riding in a carriage with a Parisian socialite who had recently been converted to Christ. She was interested in his opinion on some poetry she was reading: “Come thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing thy grace, Streams of mercy never failing, Call for hymns of loudest praise.” When she looked up from her reading, the socialite noticed Robinson was crying. “What do I think of it?” he asked in a broken voice. “I wrote it. But now I’ve drifted away from him and can’t find my way back.”
“But don’t you see?” the woman said gently, “The way back is written right here in the third line of your poem: ‘Streams of mercy never failing.’ Those streams are flowing even here in Paris tonight.” That night Robinson recommitted his life to Christ.
For the wanderers like Robinson, for the religious like Nicodemus the Pharisee, for the Roman collaborators like Matthew the tax collector, and for all of us, salvation has come. Jesus has entered our unlit world to bring the light of salvation to everyone who will believe. This can be the most wonderful Christmas ever for those who realize that “streams of mercy” are still flowing because of that first Christmas. Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) As we follow the Lord as His disciple, He illuminates the pathway of life so we can find our way through the difficulties, problems and decisions that constantly confront us.
God’s first words in the book of Genesis were “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). The first thing that God did as He created the world was to separate the light from the darkness. But the Book of Revelation tells us that the last thing that God does is to separate the light from the darkness. There’s a darkness outside of heaven, the Bible calls it “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30) — in which there is no glimmer of light. That’s the awfulness of this other destination of the human soul — a place where light never penetrates. This is what makes the gospel so utterly solemn, so absolute and so important. We shall all, one day, spend eternity either in the light or in the darkness.
No matter what the trial may be, the promise of this verse is that we have a Savior, a Deliverer, especially designed to handle that problem, a Savior who is with us always. If we remember that, and look to him, he will take us through it. He does not promise to take the problem away, but he says he will take us through it. He will strengthen us to face it and will give us courage and peace and joy in the midst of it. Therefore the promise of the angel was “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
This is what Christmas must mean to us. And all the days of the year that lie ahead are to be met by the fact that we have in our midst and in our hearts, if we have come to know him, a Savior, a Deliverer, a Rescuer, Christ the Lord. All authority has been given unto him, in heaven and on earth. No event and no circumstance can come into our lives that will be more than He can handle, more than He can take us through. It is that knowledge that gives the heart peace and puts joy upon the countenance. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17)