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When we think of the birth of Jesus, we always think of a serene nativity scene.
We picture it in our mind as a moonlit night full of stars and the beautiful young Virgin Mary, kneeling there by baby Jesus, who is sleeping sweetly on the nice clean fresh hay while a strong, handsome Joseph watches over them.
All the animals are smiling at the young family. Fuzzy little warm sheep, who look like overgrown cotton balls, and their shepherds admire the baby. And in the background, we can hear the angels humming “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night” as if it were a lullaby to baby Jesus. As we glance off to the east, we can almost see three wise men, all dressed in their fine robes, decorated in gold and silver, bringing extravagant, expensive gifts for this precious newborn baby. You can almost see a yellow halo of light around the head of that baby.
That’s a nice picture, and that’s how I like to think the birth of Jesus went. But it’s probably not very accurate.
First of all the wise men weren’t there the night Jesus was born; they came later. It’s probably just not a very accurate picture. Think about it for a moment. This is a stable that they’re in. It’s a barn – and not one of the nice metal pole barns that farmers build today! Do you know what animals do in a barn? There’s probably “fecal matter” on the floor; which by the way is a dirt floor. Mary has just given birth, she’s probably been screaming in agony and pain; I guarantee she’s not “glowing” like all the pictures on the Christmas cards. At the very least she’s feeling pretty “icky.”
I was in the delivery room when both of our kids were born, and I saw it all. It ain’t pretty. It may be a beautiful event, but there ain’t anything pretty about it! And Mary didn’t have any epidurals or pain killers of any kind (they hadn’t been invented yet.) There weren’t any doctors there, either. That means that Joseph had to deliver this baby, and I guarantee you, he wasn’t wearing any rubber gloves. The place was a terrible mess. The poor girl probably just wanted a little privacy. And then here comes a bunch of smelly old shepherds, who might take a bath once a year whether they need it or not. To say the least, it was not a picture of peace.
That’s just the beginning. The whole reason they had traveled to Bethlehem was because of the government, and it was a foreign tyrannical government at that. Now, since when has any government ever done anything the easy way. This was not an optional thing. Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem, they didn’t have a choice. They were forced by a foreign government to do this. That is not peace. The Romans couldn’t have cared less about the difficulty and challenge this brought to the people’s lives. The Romans did not care about bringing peace to the lives of others around them. They were conquerors, not peacemakers.
That presents a challenge to us this Christmas and every day. Are we taking the Roman approach to Christmas, or are we taking God’s approach to Christmas? In the wake of all that is going on this holiday season, are we spreading peace to the lives of others, or are our actions causing more trouble in the lives of others?
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and if we are the loyal people of his kingdom, then I hope we might be peaceable people bringing Christ to the lives of those around us. What we really need is peace. We all need to experience the Prince of Peace.
Here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you sit down and read the Christmas story all alone, just to yourself. Read it straight out of the Bible. There is something special about that. Or if you have children at home, sit down with them, with your family, and read it together. If you have young children, read it out of a children’s version that tells the true meaning of Christmas.
Find a peaceful moment to spend time together, just as a family. Maybe take a walk together, or drive around looking at Christmas lights. And while you do that, remind each other that Jesus is the light of the world. Remember that he alone brings peace into the world. He is the Prince of Peace.
Jesus, the light of the world, came to lead mankind out of the darkness of our sinful lives. The sin in our lives brings turmoil, but Jesus came to bring us peace.