Summary: The light of Christ shined into the darkness at just the right time when He was born and still attracts people with hope, peace and love today.
Isaiah 9:2,6 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Today we are kicking off a series focused on the Most Wonderful Time of the Year- Christmas time. In our house we have a sign that reads, “May the peace of Christmas fill your hearts and homes all year long.” As followers of Christ, that should absolutely be the case. We know that, long after the decorations are taken down and the gifts have been opened and we’ve eaten more food than any person really should, the light of Christ remains. Jesus can’t be contained to just a holiday or even a season. He’s so much more than all of our traditions and fanfare.
That being said, I still love the Christmas season because it brings a time of reflection and pause. It brings the focus back to what’s really important and causes hearts to open up to the message of the Gospel and the hope and light that the Gospel alone brings. Songs proclaiming the birth of our Savior can be heard at schools, community events and on almost every radio station. Sprinkled among the grandiose light displays, a manger scene is not considered out of the ordinary. And at the top of every manger you will almost always find a star, to represent the star that the three wise men followed to find Jesus. Even in the commercialism of the United States and other parts of the world, the light of Jesus still shines through Christmas.
Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing “Christmas Is …” and the title of today’s message is, “Christmas is Light”.
Often, we take the Christmas story for granted. We have heard it so many times that we can fail to understand how truly amazing it is. Prophecy given through Isaiah almost 800 years prior to his birth, foretold the coming of Christ. Through the years of darkness for the people of Israel that followed, God’s plan to bring the Light of Christ into the world was taking shape. That Light that appeared in the form of a baby over 2000 years ago, still offers comfort, power, eternal life and peace to you and me today.
Waiting in the Dark
In order to truly appreciate the sovereignty of God reflected in the birth of Jesus, I want to give you a glimpse into the world that Jesus was born into.
Prior to Jesus’ birth, there were, what many refer to as “400 Years of Silence”. After the prophet Malachi until John the Baptist appeared in Matthew, there was a time span of 400 years with no prophets and no new revelation or words from God to the people of Israel.
If any of you have ever experienced a time of waiting to hear from God, you may have a glimpse of just how dark it felt for the nation of Israel, by the time Christ arrived in the world.
Leading up to the Book of Malachi, the Assyrians and Babylonians emptied the land and carried the Israelites into exile. The Persians then allowed a remnant to return. After the Persians were defeated by Alexander, the Greeks invaded Palestine. They brought their culture and language. The effect of the Greeks on the nation of Israel was long lasting, so much so, that the New Testament was written in Greek. Greek influence created a moral and spiritual crisis for the Jewish people. After Alexander’s rule ended, the Jewish people were ruled by Ptolemies from Egypt and then a harsh ruler, Antiochus under the King of Syria, took over. He forced the Jewish people into slavery, banned practicing of Jewish faith and forced pagan religion and set up an altar to Zeus in the temple courts. When this occurred, some of the Jewish people rebelled and eventually defeated the Syrian army, destroyed the statue of Zeus and rededicated the Jewish Temple. (side note, The dates of Hanukkah and Christmas are somewhat associated with 25 Kislev-the month about the same as December b/c of the rededication of the temple and the early church chose 12/25 to take away the birthday of Greek god Zeus/Roman god Jupiter.) After the Rebellion, the Jewish people experienced a brief time of self-rule, until division among them led to a civil war between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A Roman general, Pompey arrived and helped the Pharisees defeat the Sadducees in Jerusalem. Then, Rome helped itself to land of Israel, incorporating it into the Roman Empire. As we know, Jesus was born at the time when Caesar Augustus issued the decree for a census.