Summary: We can understand that many people are facing a lot of hardships nowadays. But it is difficult to understand why there are hardship during the first Christmas!
Shall we bow down before our LORD to ask Him to bless our worship this morning:
Dear Heavenly Father, grant us listening hearts, unity of minds, and humble hearts, for we want to worship You. May You be honored this morning. In JESUS' name, Amen!
My title for this morning is "Hope in the Midst of Hardships." Someone ask, what does hardship got to do with Christmas you are preparing. Well, let's see what the Bible tells us!
As we all know, whenever the Christmas season comes our way, almost all the people are excited about it. It is the most joyous season, especially in the Philippines. However, things have changed since our country has encountered a lot of problems this year.
Consider the typhoon that struck the whole Luzon, the Zamboanga crisis, the Napoles’ Pork Barrel Scam, the big earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu, the monster typhoon that devastated the Leyte and Samar provinces, and lastly, the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) scam. Just this week, the price of gasoline increased, LPG price hiked to P13 per kilo; and electricity will hike up to P4 per kilowatts. We are all affected whether you are rich or poor, young or old.
We need to keep praying for our country amidst all the crises. The situation our country is currently facing reminds me of the difficulties faced by Joseph and Mary during the first Christmas. The first challenge they encountered was…
A. The Hardship of the Journey (vv. 1-5)
According to Luke 2, when Caesar Augustus issued a decree for people to go back to their own hometown to register for census, that was also the time Mary was due to give birth to JESUS. They had no choice but to leave the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem.
It would take them about a week or more to reach Bethlehem, which was around 80 miles away. Just imagine how difficult and stressful it was for a pregnant woman to travel on a donkey for that long. It can result in miscarriage and might lead the mother to death.
Last October, I watched GMA’s I-Witness’ anniversary presentation. Kara David tells the story of a woman in delivery who has both feet in the grave. Marina Catanao lives in the forests of Agusan del Sur. Because of their meager resources and lack of access to a clinic or hospital, she decided to give birth at home.
The hard-working mother goes on with her day as usual… oblivious of the dangers of her fifth pregnancy. But a midwife wanted her to go to the town clinic for further check-up and wanted her to deliver there, because some lives have been claimed by the unforgiving rough road to town. If you watched this presentation last October 28, you will understand more of what i describe to you now.
This was the hardship that every town women in far flunk area suffer the same mischief. Thank GOD that Marina and the baby surpassed the risk of miscarriage and death.
In July of 1994, my wife, Nancy, who was about 8 months pregnant with our first baby, faced the risks of death and miscarriage. We were driving on our way home from the church’s prayer meeting when our car was hit by a big bus! We thank GOD that nothing serious done to my wife, but the car was damaged. Thank GOD for protecting and preserving the lives of my wife and daughter.
In the same way, GOD protected Joseph and Mary all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Bible tells us that they arrived there safely but they have to face their next challenge…
B. The Hardship of Finding a Place (vv.6-7)
The Bible tells us that there was no available room for Joseph and Mary to rest. Everybody returned to their respective hometown for the census and all the inns were fully occupied.
After a tiring long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they had difficulty looking for a place to stay, rest, and eventually deliver the baby. As they searched, Joseph and Mary may have gotten more and more hopeless and desperate.
In GOD's perfect timing, He provided someone to open up his stable for them. Staying in a stable was not a pleasant experience. It did not offer the comforts of a room. The place was smelly yet, it was better than having no place to stay at all.
As I prepare this message, the devastation caused by the Typhoon Yolanda came to my mind.
The three hours of heavy rains, strong winds and storm surge claimed thousands of lives. The dead toll still kept on rising. The whole Leyte province was almost erased from the map and became ground zero. Many houses were destroyed. Debris was everywhere. Dead bodies scattered all throughout the city streets. Electricity and water were cut off. Looting began when food shortages was felt. The survivors have to look for their loved ones, food and a safe place to stay. It was truly an ordeal for them!