When I picture the night of Jesus’ birth, I imagine the tranquility described by Joseph Mohr in the 1816 hymn, Silent Night. What a night! Jesus, Messiah, God himself, born in a little town called Bethlehem. That silent, holy night was the moment that Hope, Love, Joy and Peace was born. However, I suspect that the night Jesus was born was hardly silent. The night was first filled with joy. Then deep sorrow. And then lasting hope, love, (more) joy and peace.
The first to arrive were filled with joy. The shepherds were told of his birth by a crowd of angels that proclaimed, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” The shepherds excitedly and hurriedly found the baby and worshipped him. And, I imagine, that this was not a quiet and calm encounter. Imagine, if you will, a group of rough and tough outdoorsmen excitedly telling everyone they saw about God himself born to save the world. And they were witnesses of this incredible event. They were the first ones to see the old prophecies come to life. Wouldn’t you be a bit boisterous too?
And then the sorrow. Any tranquility on the night of Jesus’ birth was short-lived. From the day of Jesus’ birth, another crowd set out to kill him. When Herod learned of Jesus’ birth from the traveling Maji, he became extremely violent in his effort to eliminate any chance of anyone upsetting his rule. Religious leaders soon picked up the fight as well. The one whose mission was to bring peace would experience very little of it, ultimately giving up his life to violent opposition. And even death couldn’t keep him from changing the world.
It seems that our responses are much the same even today. Some joyously worship Jesus and do their best to follow in his footsteps. Others try to keep his influence at bay, denying the significance of his mission and life’s work. And yet Jesus lived, died, and rose again on the third day so that we might know hope, love, joy and peace. Much like the night of his birth, Jesus continues to show up in our chaos. God is present with us in whatever uncertainty we encounter.
The priest Zechariah said, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79 NLT). If you find yourself in darkness and suffering, remember that a light has dawned. The merciful God above gave us hope in Christ, an example of love, a reason for joy, and lasting peace.
May you find Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace in this season. May you know the nearness of his presence. Never forget that Christ, the light of the world, overcame darkness and violence to give us life and life abundantly. I encourage you to take a moment to recognize how God is moving in your life and in the world around you. Take many moments to share the blessings you freely received with those around you. Let your life be evidence that the Messiah was born to us.
Support your local newspaper! I wrote this for the Pastor’s Corner section of The Sheridan Press. Click here for the original post.