In the most difficult of circumstances–considering the first Christmas

What could be worse than a stay-at-home order just as the Holy Day season begins?

How about an imperial order to register for taxes?  For Joseph and Mary, that meant a young lady in her final month of pregnancy must travel on foot and/or donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Wait a minute; it gets worse.

Mary went into labor, but there was no room for Mary and Joseph in any available lodging.  So Mary delivered her firstborn Son in a stable, wrapped Him in whatever cloth was available, and laid Him in a manger.

But here is the power of God’s love and grace to bring joy and redemption in the most difficult of circumstances. The long-awaited Savior—promised from the time of Adam’s first failure and to so many others over the course of centuries through the prophets as recorded in the Old Testament—had come.

How about the lives of others?  What good was the birth of Jesus to them? According to Luke, right after Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds announcing the good message of Jesus’ birth and where to find Him. The shepherds were among the lowest in society. At this time, they were staying in the fields with their flocks day and night because it was time for lambs to be born. Sheep are well known for being bad at giving birth, yet the shepherds’ small income would be no income without the newborn lambs. It was dark, cold, lonely, even hopeless . . . but that is where the good message is most effective. The shepherds immediately rose up and hurried to find the baby Jesus, just as the angel had announced. They rejoiced greatly to see their Savior and the beginning of the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to save. Then they returned to their flocks. Wait a minute.

The Savior came, but what changed for the lower class, like the shepherds? Nothing and everything.

The shepherds were still under the Roman Empire; still held in low opinion by their religious leaders; still living on a low and vulnerable income; still in the field, in the cold, in the darkness. Yet everything was different now. So different that these shepherds found their voices and shared what they had heard and seen with everyone. Jesus, which means “salvation is from the Lord” was among them, just like another of His names promised, “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” The life of a soul regenerated by God’s Word and Spirit in the image of His Son was thriving in these shepherds. They had light and warmth and providence from God that could not be paralleled nor taken away.

God is bringing that same message, the same joy, peace, love, and hope that Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and so many others experienced to you, right now as you read this and always as you read His Word.   

 What did Jesus change for the shepherds? Nothing and everything!

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