Summary: Christmas is a noisy time of year. How do we handle the noise that surrounds Christmas?
It happens almost every year just after Christmas and New Years are over. I have what some people have labeled the post Holiday crash. When the hectic pace of the holidays gives way to silence, I crash. And truth be told the Christmas season is always hectic.
There are so many different thing vying for my attention. There’s Christmas shopping, and holiday cards to send, and family to contact, and trips to plan, not to mention special church services. The cacophony of noise at Christmas can be deafening.
It’s not just noisy for those who are busy this season. There are those who hear the noise of grief. While others are singing carols, there are those whose attention is riveted on their grief. So today, as we continue our series of Christmas messages, I want to explore the question, “What do we do with the noise of Christmas?” as we explore the sounds of Christmas.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Luke starts the story by telling about a Roman Census. It seems rather mundane. But I think we will discover as we read a little further that this census has special significance.
So Joseph and Mary who are engaged pack up to make the 70 mile trip. Now to us, 70 miles isn’t a lot. But that’s with modern transportation. Travel in Biblical times was much slower often done on foot. Now I know there are some who read this and picture Mary riding a donkey with Joseph holding a lead rope. I suppose that’s possible; the Bible doesn’t say. But no matter how you cut it, the journey would have taken about a week…and Oh, by the way… Mary is pregnant and she’s near her due date.
As you read the story with me, do you hear the shuffle of tired feet? Do you hear the clip clop of tiny hooves?
Do you hear what I hear? You see this Roman Census that led to Joseph and Mary’s travel to Bethlehem would mean that prophecy about the coming Messiah would be fulfilled in Jesus.
The Sounds of Christmas
I. The Voice of Prophecy Fulfilled.
Let me explain. Without this journey to Bethlehem, Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. That is not a problem unless you consider that long ago, prophets foretold that the Messiah (the Christ) would be born in Bethlehem.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
This prophecy was given centuries earlier, but it is “on record” that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. In fact this is one of a dozen concerning the details of the Messiah’s birth that point to Jesus as the Christ. And without this trip, without Caesar’s desire to generate more taxes, Jesus would have been born in the wrong place. Jesus would have failed one of the tests of the Messiah.
I marvel at the fact that God used the mundane to perform the miraculous – to fulfill prophecy.
And does anyone else find it ironic that this prophecy was fulfilled through the actions of a pagan nation? God used Rome to fulfill his prophecy of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. God can use the decisions and actions of those who are not under his control to fulfill his purposes.
In the birth narrative we read about Jesus, we can see that God is still guiding history for his purposes. God guides history, and nations, and people for his cause whether they are believes or not. God is still involved in the activity of the world. That’s sovereignty; that is God’s ultimate reign.
I hear people complain about the United States and how we need to get back to our Christian heritage. I don’t disagree. But we must not forget that God still uses even pagan nations to fulfill his plans. I’m not excusing our drift to paganism. I am saying that even if the United States goes completely secular, God is still on his throne. Even when things are uncomfortable, even when things are chaotic, God is still here working, guiding, leading, fulfilling his plans through us for his purposes.