Christmas is only a few days away and as I considered the whole sweep of the great nativity story I saw something I hadn’t seen before. We know the story of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem because Caesar had ordered a census and everyone was supposed to return to their hometown. I realized for the first time the amount of turmoil and chaos that this would have caused with so many people on the move. We know that once they reached Bethlehem, there was nowhere for Mary and Joseph to stay so they ended up in a stable, likely with other people. It was in the midst of all this turmoil that Christ appeared. Christ entered into the chaos that engulfed the world and brought something new. He came into the chaos to give us peace and truth and light and life. He came into the chaos to give us a relationship with God Himself – to give us everything that we cannot get for ourselves.
So maybe we aren’t travelling in response to some government mandated census, but there is still plenty of turmoil in our lives. It may take many forms – financial, emotional, relational, career, family, even spiritual, whatever it is it causes real turmoil. How we respond will depend on who we think Christ is and His place in our lives. There will be times of turmoil in our lives; chaos swirling around us. In that case, I would suggest that you to let Christ enter into, be incarnated into, that world in order to show you how to live beyond the chaos and experience what only Christ can give. Jesus once said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That is quite the promise; I think we can take Him up on it.
There is, however, a different kind of turmoil I want to consider. A turmoil not due to external situations but due to the revelation of Christ in our lives. When He shows up, He has a way of upsetting the status quo. We seem to get all jumbled up because he challenges our neat little world that we have so carefully set up. I began to think about how people respond to this turmoil and I looked at the story of the Wise Men, the magi, as a model for good and not so good responses.
These wise men from the Persia area saw a star in the night sky and interpreted it as a sign of a great king being born. They followed the heavenly sign post to Israel. Arriving there they stopped in Jerusalem to consult with King Herod about the appearance of this star and its signaling of a new king of the Jews, the long promised Messiah. The magi proceeded to Bethlehem to worship Christ. In the meantime, Herod plotted to eliminate this threat to this kingship.
In both cases the appearance of Christ, the revelation of the new king, caused some turmoil, it caused a shift in the lives of both the magi and Herod. The magi had to decide how to respond to the news of a new king. They could either ignore it and stay in the comfort of their homes in Persia, or they would have to go outside their comfort zone to seek the new king. The magi represent for us the need to step outside our self-created box that dictates how we think God should work in our lives. Stepping outside that box requires that we recognize His control – His Kingship – over our lives. We speak of Jesus being “King” but what does that mean? It means He has the say in how and when we spend our money and even how much we make. It means He has the say in where we go. It means He has the say in every aspect of our lives. It means we do not have the right to make decisions without His approval. Just as the magi did, we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to embrace the presence of Christ in our lives.
The news of this newborn king also caused a crisis for Herod. He also had to decide how to respond to the presence of Christ in his life. For him it meant letting go of control of his kingdom. It meant recognizing that he, Herod, was no longer the final authority. But Herod couldn’t do that so he tried to kill Jesus; he tried to eliminate Christ from his life, get him out of his way. Herod couldn’t allow anyone, much less God, upset his world. Herod had to keep control and it cost many people’s lives. Certainly, we aren’t going to order an execution of an entire village, but we are often like Herod in trying to keep God out of our lives. We don’t want to give up control and we don’t want our lives to be challenged. For us, Herod represents our attempts at keeping control of our lives at any cost. The cost is usually a lot of hurt people – including ourselves.
We need to understand that allowing Christ to enter into our lives may cause turmoil, when He challenges our values, our assumptions, our goals, our desires, and our control. When the Word of God is revealed it causes shift and it demands recognition. We can respond like Herod and try to maintain control of our lives and try to keep Him from upsetting our world or we can respond like the magi who sought to embrace the presence of Christ and let His Truth, His Life, his Light and His Peace guide us.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans said “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Here is another promise we can count on. Trusting in him in the midst of or because of the turmoil in our lives will result in joy, peace and hope. Have a very blessed Christmas season.