Tuesday, December 1, 2015

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Can you hear the tune?  "O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.......  I wonder how often we deceive ourselves into believing that the world in which Mary and Joseph were living was idyllic and pastoral, almost like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Or worse yet we may think it a fairy tale made up by weak people for weak people.  If it did exist, it could not have been as tense, violent, or stress-filled as today.  Or could it?

Much as the picture above, Bethlehem would have been a crowded place.  Life was lived under an occupying army.  The government insisted on a forced census, causing a lady who was about to deliver her first child to make an arduous journey by donkey and on foot.  The group with which they traveled probably spent time speaking of the economic hardships they were facing; desires to see the current government overthrown; and perhaps even the idea that God must not care about them at all. How could He allow such things to take place if He really existed?  And there would have been distinctive conflicts between people from different religious persuasions.  The tall structure in this picture is a Muslim minaret and if the camera was turned the other way, you would see the Church of the Nativity,  built over the place where tradition says Jesus was born.  Very stark contrasts and real tensions.

So our world is not so different.  And while their world was much like ours, into the darkness of that night was born one who would be called the Prince of Peace and Light of the World.  The Word who created the world was coming into it.  Isaiah the prophet said much more:

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.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Peace.  What a wonderful thought.  What a sought after goal.  Yet in the midst of the chaos of their world and ours, it is possible to experience being in the company of the Prince of Peace. And this peace will never end because the One who provides it will reign forever more.  He will accomplish all this.

So this Advent season, how is your level of peace?  I'm not suggesting you can and will live without conflict.  For that you would have to leave this world.  I do know you can experience His peace even in the midst of any conflict you encounter.  So how much at peace are you?

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