Trouble at Christmas

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. These extraordinary words are often repeated at Christmas season especially in cards and sermons. The prophet Isaiah and the numerous people who were waiting for this promised child would have expected Him to have a peaceful childhood. But amazingly there was quite a lot of trouble surrounding the birth of this promised child.

Mary a God fearing virgin girl who is betrothed to Joseph a God fearing man, gets pregnant before marriage! She and Joseph must have had a difficult time as gossip spread. Around the time of the delivery, Caesar Augustus declares a registration and they were forced to travel (without modern comfort) to Bethlehem and there was no suitable place (and hospital) for the delivery. Seeing a special star, some wise men or magi make a trip to worship this baby. It appears that the star was not always visible during the journey and so they go to Jerusalem to get directions. Unfortunately Herod the Great who reigned in Jerusalem at that time was a ruthless and paranoid tyrant who even killed his father-in-law, some wives and two sons. Hearing their mission, Herod decides to secretly kill Jesus. When that plan was foiled, he kills all male children below 2 years in that area. To avoid it, the newly wedded couple had to escape to Egypt with an infant!

Life is not easy and so we may dismiss some of these issues as unavoidable. But it appears that some issues could have been blocked by God. The timing of the birth of Jesus is perplexing. Herod died less than a year after the visit of the wise men and maybe his son Archelaus would not have been so disturbed by the birth of a child. Why did the star disappear when the wise men went towards Jerusalem but re-appeared when they left? At least innocent infant lives would have been spared. Was it really so important for the birth to happen in Bethlehem?

Surely God could have made the circumstances of Christmas easy but He didn’t. I personally have no answers as to why He allowed so much trouble. But I know that His Words says “when the appropriate time had come, God sent his Son, born by a woman” Galatians 4:4 (ISV). It appears that God’s appropriate time often seems to conflict with man’s understanding and expectation. Many have been frustrated by God’s timing and lost much. King Saul is a sad example: “Saul waited seven days for the appointment set by Samuel. When Samuel did not arrive at Gilgal, as the people began to scatter from Saul, Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering and the peace offering to me,” and he offered the burnt offering. Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to meet and greet him … Then Samuel told Saul, “You have acted foolishly. You haven’t obeyed the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom won’t be established.” 1Samuel 13:8-10,13,14a (ISV). Jesus intentionally delayed himself when his friend Lazarus was sick: “Yet, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was for two more days … When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days … Martha told Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:6,17,21 (ISV)

Let us not get frustrated by God’s timing. Let us realise that we cannot always understand Him or else He will cease being God! “You do not know what God is doing in everything he makes.” Ecclesiastes 11:5. Let us draw to Him as young children, remembering that the baby who was born in such a hopeless situation “has gone to heaven and is at the right hand of God, where angels, authorities, and powers have been made subject to him.” 1 Peter 3:22 (ISV). Just as God appeared with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace, He will show up in all your troubles as promised in Isaiah 43:2; “When you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you; and through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. when you walk through fire you won’t be scorched, and the flame won’t set you ablaze.” So remember to look for God in all your difficult time and happy times.

Wish you all a blessed Christmas.


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