We tell the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus like it's a fairy tale. We've scrubbed the story clean of its gritty detail and have sanitized it so that it is tidy, peaceful, and reverent, with only the little drummer boy to break the stillness.
But the real story was a hot mess. God's people had endured 400 years of persecution and oppression. When God finally broke the silence, he sent his angels to bust in on Zechariah and Mary, terrifying both of them. When the time came for Jesus to be born, Joseph and the very pregnant Mary had to make the arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem so they could pay taxes to a greedy, occupying government. When they got there, the place was so over-crowded, there was no place for them to stay except for where the traveler's donkeys were kept. They were horrible conditions, filthy and full of gut-wrenching stench.
Let's talk politics of the day: Israel was under Roman occupation, and controlling the Jews under Roman occupation was a corrupt puppet government run by a wicked king named Herod. Herod, as you know, was the sort of man willing to send every boy child under the age of 2 to his death just to keep himself on the throne. The Jewish people didn't realize it at the time, but they would never have their country to themselves again until 1948. They were scattered all over the world.
Some silent night, right?
Is it a coincidence that we read all these 'fear not' verses surrounding the birth of Jesus and Christmas?
God knew what they needed; He knows what we need. So he gives us Jesus!
Is your heart afraid? Is your mind a mess? Are you under accusation by the enemy of your soul who wants to knock you out? Does chaos consume your thoughts? Do you feel encircled, vulnerable, alone, and afraid? Do you wonder what is happening to our nation and worry that the world is on fire? Do you sense crisis coming and fear we are reaching critical mass?
"I wasn't until now. Thanks."
A lot of people have been asking questions like these in the last several months.
Here's my point: Jesus didn't enter a fairy tale world. He entered a real world, a sick world. It was the kind of world that Mary and Joseph found themselves in, and it's the kind of world we find ourselves in. And when he came, he didn't bring a fairy tale with him. The world still raged on around Bethlehem. Only a few people got a glimpse of God's peace that night. The Romans were still occupying, Herod was still a wicked king, and Mary and Joseph were soon to be refugees fleeing to Egypt.
But God broke through their chaos and said, "Do not be afraid." And Mary put that peace of God deeply within her heart.
I would almost bet that when you trusted Christ, the world continued to rage on around you. Remember, Jesus didn't come to bring you a fairy tale life but to give your heart peace as you trust him in the travail that is this world. Life is not the Hallmark Channel. I think we get lured into a false sense of peace when everything is comfortable and safe, but that's not peace.
Peace is what happens in chaos and crisis. [Read Psalm 46]. Peace is being held in the grip of God's grace when the mountains shake. It's a peace that Jesus alone can give. May are going through deep, personal battles. The birth of Jesus reminds us that even the crib of Christ -- the Jesus born in your heart -- has power to dispel darkness and crush the chaos of Satan.
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you", said Jesus. Trust him to bring peace and stillness to your very real life. One day the world will rage no more, and we will be with Jesus forever. Until that day, 'be still and know that He is God...'