On the eve of history’s first Christmas, it was a dark time for the Jewish people. Their land was occupied by the Roman Empire. The Lord God had not spoken to them for hundreds of years. Heaven’s voice was silent. Their religious texts spoke of prophecies about a King that would rise up from among them. They anticipated this King, that He would be their deliverer from Roman rule. How would darkness be turned to light? How would despair be turned to hope?
In approximately 4 B.C. a divine earthquake caused a split right down the middle of human history – the birth of Jesus Christ. It was like the rising of the sun dispelling the darkness. It was a new era for mankind.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah, 700 years earlier, foretold about the coming of a Messiah who would become the hope, not just of the Jewish people, but of all nations. Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Jesus was the fulfillment of this prediction. The birth of the Christ-child was a divine light borne into darkness. As He grew up and settled into His heaven-sent role, the public responded and a divine unstoppable movement took shape. However, His followers soon became disillusioned at His messaging. He was not becoming the national Savior they envisioned. Soon, the dreams they had of Jesus turning back the Roman Empire started to fade away.
Instead, Jesus told the crowds, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) He also said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk. 9:23) This meant if they wanted to follow Him, they must give up pursuing their agenda and take up God’s. This was much different than expected.
Jesus’ focus was the hearts and souls of mankind. He purposed to deliver them from the bondage of sin and lead them to spiritual freedom. He was born to govern the lives of precious souls, not a nation.
The lesson of Christmas teaches that the change our world needs is ultimately spiritual. Like the Jewish people, we can look around and see our world filled with oppression and injustice and wonder how it all can change. Like them, our hope can be for a type of national savior to be raised up. This is how we naturally think. In times of national crisis, we instinctively begin with what we can do with our own intellect and resources. And history is replete with the rise and fall of political, military, religious and other types of national figures to help save their nation.
Law, policies, programs, regulations, committees, organizations, investigations. All these have their place. At best, they can curb, reduce or control lawlessness and corruption, but they cannot eliminate it. Why? Because the heart of the problem is the human heart. Jeremiah once wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Then he penned God’s own words, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind . . .” (Jer. 17:10)
Christmas shows us that evil in the human heart is the greatest threat to the future of the world. God so believed this truth, He sent His only Son to be born of a virgin, then to die on a cross and rise again. Through this, Christ conquered evil. And to all who come to Him in repentance and faith, He will provide forgiveness of sin and a transformed heart and life.
A prayer for you. “Lord God, open our eyes to see beyond the physical to the spiritual. Bring men and women to humble themselves before you and be changed by your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”