Summary: A look at the parallels between the world when Jesus was born and now.
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“What World Is This?”
I. Christmas shatters the silence.
A. “In those days...” What were they like?
1. Israel was ruled by Rome.
a. Rome controlled the government... secular and religious. (Freedom was just an illusion.)
b. Rome imposed “peace” through their military strength. (Israel was losing national identity.)
c. Rome allowed “religious freedom” as long as they recognized Caesar.
d. It could have been worse but it was a miserable time.
2. Herod was King.
a. Brutal dictator, and close personal friend of Caesar Augustus. (Immune to political pressure.)
b. Vicious person who killed his wife and several of his sons. (No moral restraint.)
c. Ordered all boys in “Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” to be killed.
d. Herod was also an Edomite – a nation that NOTHING good is ever said. (Historically a mortal enemy of Israel.)
(Ill.) When I lived in Kentucky, the winters did not include a beautiful snow and bright sun shine, like around here. Typically the winter skies were overcast and instead of snow, there was freezing rain. We used to say instead of winter we had “gray death” and remarked that the ice in KY was more slippery than where else. Winters there were depressing to someone who was used to a full blown winter with snow.
Can you imagine a world like that without the joy of Christmas, without the expectation of the Messiah? It is a “gray death” type of life. That kind of life is dull, boring, and empty of significance.
B. Maybe the worst part was the 400 years of silence.
1. No prophet had spoken in the name of the Lord for 400 years.
2. The silence was deafening...
a. Had God abandoned them?
b. Was the promised Messiah every going to appear?
C. What about today?
1. It seems that government is intruding on Christian practice more and more.
a. Freedom to speak is being curtailed. (Political and moral issues.)
b. Christianity is being systematically erased from public life. (e.g. removal of “Merry Christmas.”)
2. It’s been 2,000 years since Jesus was here...
a. Is Jesus going to return?
b. Has God forgotten us?
Jesus’ birth shattered the silence. His birth was “God with us.” Into the “gray death” of the Roman Empire and the depression of Herod’s rule, Jesus shattered the silence by entering the world in the most helpless and vulnerable way. He didn’t come to the politicians or impose His political will. He was born to an unwed peasant girl who was engaged to be married to a simple carpenter. God had not forgotten even the poorest and lest important of us.
II. Christmas brings light and joy.
A. How does this “gray death” of life work?
1. We have only one problem: it’s not economical, it’s not political, it’s not racial, it’s not social (Billy Graham). The problem is spiritual. It’s called sin and it causes us to be separated from God and His goodness. Gloom is caused by this separation. Romans 6:7 – 8 says, “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (NIV)