God With Us - Good, Bad and Ugly -- Dr. Robert Richardson
The birth of Christ is considered one of the most significant events in world history. So important was this occurrence that Father Time has since been measured from the date of His birth.
Compared to all the festivities surrounding the current celebration of Christ’s coming, the first Christmas was quite different. In fact, much of what surrounded Jesus’ birth was not joyful at all.
It is ironic that the birth of Christ was enveloped by scandal, death-threats, and extreme hardships. A scandal erupted when Mary became pregnant while she was engaged to be married to Joseph. Extreme hardship began when Mary and Joseph were required to travel some 75 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register to pay taxes. Mary’s due date was only a week or so away.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the inn. The only other place they could go was to the stable. This was where the poor went for shelter and rest. At times, fugitives would frequent the stable in an effort to hide from the soldiers who sought them. In this “barn,” under these circumstances, the Christ Child was born.
As rumors of a new King of the Jews began to circulate, a paranoid and ruthless Herod began to plot to kill this new King. Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee some 200 miles into Egypt to avoid Herod’s massacre in Bethlehem.
Following the death of Herod, the family returned to Galilee and settled again in their home town of Nazareth. This city was considered on the “other side of tracks,” for the rumor persisted “that nothing good could come out of Nazareth.” (John 1:46)
So it was that the “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” entered this world amidst scandal, extreme hardship, conditions of poverty, death-threats, asylum in a foreign country, and eventually residence among social outcasts.
Somehow these events do not seem to fit the coming of a new King. And yet the conditions that surrounded the birth of the Christ Child seem strangely and ironically appropriate. If God is with us in Christ, as we believe God is, then being with us includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, not just the good.
Thus, Jesus could identify with those caught up in scandal. He knew what the ravages of poverty were like. He knew the constant fear of death threats. He knew the humiliation of being stereotyped because of race and social status. And he knew the pain of being falsely accused and horribly executed.
Christ Jesus is God with us regardless the circumstances! Thanks be to God!