Today’s Scripture Reading
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. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Today’s Devotional Thought
The angels proclaim peace on earth to the shepherds in the field, Isaiah tells us that one of Jesus’ titles is “Prince of Peace” and that His government and its peace will never end.
It all sounds wonderful, but as I write this the cease fire has broken down in Aleppo and many who were about to escape are finding themselves trapped. There are reports of soldiers going door to door executing innocent civilians. Hard to imagine that is actually happening on the other side of the world as I sit comfortably at my desk. But it is.
This whole year has been full of riots, protests, division, and unnecessary death. It can be a difficult time to preach that God is actively working to restore this world and reconcile it to Him when it seems the narrative of current events proclaims the opposite. One of my favorite Christmas songs is a hymn that comes from a poem that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in the middle of the American Civil War. It has a famous line that rings true of the human experience and the doubts we can sometimes feel:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
It is a moment of honest often missing from Christmas music. But the conclusion of the song is one of the most powerful:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
No matter what is going on in your life this Christmas, no matter what situation is taking place in the world that has troubled you to the core, remember this: God is not asleep. These things are not a surprise to Him and He has not forgotten you. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. We are called to place our hope in God, especially when the world is at its most dark, that His justice and His peace will prevail just as He promised. Most often, we are called to carry God’s light into the dark places of this world so that peace, hope, and love can abound.
I have found that when I am feeling the most down about the darkness in the world, that is usually a sign that it is time for me to get outside myself, stop the pity party, and go find some way to bring light into the darkness with the time God has given me here. I encourage you to do the same as well!