“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city” (Luke 2:1-3 NKJV).
Luke places the birth of Jesus with the census of Quirinius (2:1-2). This event held bitter feelings for the Jewish people. Rome officially annexed Judaea as part of its empire with the census of Quirinius.
The Jewish people of the land of Israel were brought under pagan, Roman rule. In response to the census, a stream of Jewish philosophy emerged which taught that submission to Rome was a sin, since God alone was Israel’s king. The response to Roman rule was: Take up the sword, resist, and spill Roman blood; this is the path of redemption.
In the midst of this turmoil, God sent His Son, born to Joseph and Mary. He fulfilled His promise not through the resistance movement and bloodshed, but through a child, who would grow up to call upon those seeking redemption to repent.
Turmoil has the ability to make us yearn for God’s assistance. It can also lead us to seek our own means to make it happen. God is never deaf to our cries of help, yet He often uses means that we find ourselves blind to because of the turmoil of our circumstances.
Jesus entered a world of turmoil. Rome had taken over. The people of Israel cried for God’s redemption. The question became, how would He achieve it?
Some sought armed resistance as the path, yet God’s redemption entered the world through a baby born to a pious family. A baby who would grow up and tell people that the kingdom of Heaven (God) has come near and that returning to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pathway to receive God’s salvation.
This baby would grow up and one day offer His life as the ultimate sacrifice to bring about that redemption, but God would raise Him from the dead as evidence that His salvation has come near.
The Christmas season often heightens our feelings of turmoil. Financial troubles. Being alone. And many people feel sadness and turmoil during this season. The message of Christmas is that God steps into our turmoil. He is near. He does not abandon us. Yet we don’t always see Him or understand His purpose.
Into the turmoil of the first century, God sent forth His Son, who called upon the people to return to Him and to His ways. And He calls us to do the same today.
Father, even in the midst of our own turmoil and frustrated hopes, may we lean into Your presence realizing that You never forsake us. May we see that You still come to us inviting us to return to You and submit ourselves to Your plans and purposes. Amen.