Silent Night? The Only Peaceful Part of the Story is Jesus
- Dena Johnson Martin Dena's Devos
- 2016 19 Dec
The first Christmas. Such a peaceful night, with stars shining brightly. The new family nestled in the barn surrounded by the animals. Angels heralding his birth. Wise men bowing low before him.
It was the perfect scene, calm and serene, not a worry or a care.
At least, that’s how we want to imagine it. But let’s take a deeper look at the reality of the first Christmas.
In the years leading up to Christ’s birth, the influence of the Greek world had grown exponentially. As the Greeks conquered the world, they infiltrated the thoughts and customs of everyone, including the Jews.
The Roman Empire controlled the world, including Israel. They collected taxes and often enforced their rule by force. The Jewish nation was no longer autonomous.
Even within the ranks of the Jews, there were factions. Pharisees. Sadducees. Zealots. Essenes. Each held fiercely to their own religious traditions, arguing and bickering over various aspects of life and religion.
Division. Fear. Bondage. Evil rulers. The world was divided, chaotic. Life was uncertain. And then came the decree.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:1-7
Augustus determined he needed an accurate count of his subjects. He ordered everyone to return to their hometown and register for the census.
It must have been an incredible hardship. It wasn’t a short road trip like we take today. Families put aside their lives, their businesses. They packed up their children, their belongings, and began the trek to their hometowns.
Joseph loaded up his very pregnant wife and began the long journey to Bethlehem. It must have been painful, uncomfortable. But it was simply the times in which they lived.
When they arrived, the town swelled with the influx of those registering for the census! As the young couple traveled door to door looking for a place to stay, the sobering reality sunk in: there was nowhere for them to sleep, to give birth to their first child.
They made do. They found a manger, and there in the midst of the animals, they delivered their first born son.
Finally, all was calm. They were safe, and the baby was healthy.
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard [a king was born], as was everyone in Jerusalem….Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.… When it was time to leave, [the wise men] returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. Matthew 2:3, 7, 12
Herod felt threatened when he heard about the birth of a new king of the Jews. He began to search him out, making plans for how to kill him. He could not risk losing his power over such a large people group. He must stop this new king, a revolt in the making.
The world was in chaos. Evil was growing. The secular worldview of the Greeks was overtaking the predominant worldview of the Jews. Peace was a rare commodity.
As I reflected on the reality of the world at the birth of Jesus, reality began to sink in: The only peaceful part of the story is Jesus.
Does that all sound familiar?
As we watch the news each evening, terrorism is on the rise. The Christian worldview is being eliminated by the increasingly secular culture. Our culture is growing increasingly opposed to long-held beliefs originating in scripture. We see Christians being persecuted, losing their businesses, because they hold to traditional Christian doctrines.
But even within the church, there are factions. The bickering and fighting is dividing us, causing us to fight against one another, instead of standing in unity to point the world toward Christ. The church is divided over trivial matters, failing to represent Christ the way He intended.
And yet, at the center of it all is Jesus.
He’s the peace in the middle of the chaos.
He’s the rest in the midst of our harried schedules.
He’s the calm at the center of the storm.
He’s the light in the darkest of nights.
He’s the silence in the loudest clamoring.
He’s the joy in the deepest pain.
He’s the rock in the shifting sand.
He’s strength on our weakest days.
He’s the sustainer when everything collapses around us.
He’s unity in the midst of division.
He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God.
He is Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And He is Immanuel, God with us.
Yes, chaos reigns supreme in our world today. But, if we seek Him like the wise men, if we follow the heavenly hosts like the shepherds, we will find our King. And He will be the perfect peace we long for.
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three amazing kids. Her greatest desire is to use her darkest days—days marred by adultery and divorce—to encourage others to find the joy of a life restored by Jesus Christ.
Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization with a mission of bringing hope to lives broken by the pain of this world. Her first book, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding Your Life After the Storms of Adultery and Divorce, will be released later this year.
In her spare time, Dena works as a Registered Nurse and is a regular contributor at Crosswalk.com. If you would like to contact Dena, please feel free to interact with her on her blog Dena Johnson Ministries or email her at Dena@denajohnson.com.
Publication date: December 19, 2016