Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in this blessed Advent season.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:1)
Augustus, the Roman Emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. Augustus was one of the most successful leaders who transformed Rome from a republic to an empire. Then he became the first Roman Emperor, and he expanded the Empire, adding Egypt, northern Spain, and large parts of central Europe. At home, he restored peace and prosperity to the Roman state and changed nearly every aspect of Roman life. And everyone in Rome liked Augustus.
Augustus laid a solid foundation for the Roman Empire many years to come. Indeed, the Roman Empire became one of the most powerful countries in human history. Due to the Roman Empire, the world became no longer used to be. The Roman Empire pioneered many social and political systems and ruled over the world for many centuries. However, the birth of the powerful Roman Empire was about to meet the most unexpected King, who would rule the world with love, mercy, grace, and peace forever by building the eternal Kingdom. The two most powerful kingdoms were on a collision course, but the world did not know what was really happening. Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, did whatever he thought was right for the Empire. Augustus ordered a census to levy more taxes, but it altered human history forever.
Quirinius was the governor of Syria who ordered the first census, appointed by the Roman Empire. Quirinius also ruled over Judea and ordered all Israelites to return to their own ancestral towns and register to count the people correctly for this census. Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
Joseph and Mary were a very special couple. Here is the story. Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 2:6)
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.
When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, the time came for her baby to be born. Joseph frantically searched for a room to stay, but no room was available because of the census. Joseph knocked on every door, but the answer was always the same. Nobody could provide a room that night. The baby was about to come, and Joseph kept trying everything he could. Finally, one Innkeeper provided a space to spend that night for Joseph and Mary. Indeed, it was not a room, but one corner of a stable, where the Inn kept animals.
Joseph and Mary spent the night in the stable, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. It was the humble birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on earth. Heaven rejoiced, and angels praised the birth of Jesus Christ. It was the most special and sacred day ever because Our Savior and Messiah was humbly born in the stable.
That night shepherds were staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them and said,
“Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10b-11)
What would it look like if we suddenly meet God’s angel? We all would be terrified, especially when God’s angel catches us off guard because we are deep into our daily lives.
The shepherds were just on their night shift as the rest of the shepherds were gone home at sunset. They had to take care of the sheep while others were sleeping home. The morning was still far away, and the night was deep. It was yet another difficult night. Some shepherds did everything not to fall asleep by standing up and walking around, but the power of the night overpowered them as it did to the sheep. The entire scene was getting quieter and quieter, and the shepherds and the sheep alike fell into sleep. All were sleeping and quiet, and silence fell on them. The sudden appearance of God’s angel was truly remarkable and immediately threw them into fear.
What did God’s angel say before telling God’s message?
“Don’t be afraid!” What a comforting message it was. All were in fear due to the supernatural scene. The shepherds looked at God’s angel intently in fear, partially because of their guilty feeling of sleeping while keeping the sheep.
Then God’s angel proclaimed God’s main message. It was not about the shepherds’ sins related to keeping the sheep or living their lives in the world. Instead, it was all about the birth of Savior and the Messiah.
“The Savior —yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
At that time, all were waiting for the Savior, the Messiah, who would rescue them from the Romans. They believed all of their present hardship was caused by the Romans who ruled over them. Thus, nobody liked Romans. The angel’s message containing “The Savior, the Messiah, the Lord” immediately grabbed their full attention. They could not believe what they heard, but they could not doubt because God’s angel was talking directly to them the greatest news ever, which they waited and waited for a long time — the birth of the Savior and the Messiah.
One thing that they could not immediately understand was, “You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” How could their Savior and Messiah be lying in a manger? Should the “real” Savior and Messiah be born in a sacred place or at least in a place where everyone would easily and immediately recognize? They were looking at each other in confusion.
However, Heaven could not stand still because the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior and Messiah was so great that all Heavenly hosts joined. Suddenly, a vast host of others—the Armies of Heaven—praised God,
“Glory to God in highest Heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)
The Heavenly hosts proclaimed God full of mercy, grace, and love, and His glory by praising God for giving His peace to His people. As God promised, God had sent the Savior and Messiah to His people, who had been waiting for centuries. Their hope was no longer a just story or legend passed down generation after generation. A true joy overpowered the shepherds also because they had searched for the Good News for years.
As the angels had returned to Heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. The Good News quickly spread throughout among the people waiting for the Messiah who would save them from the Romans.
However, not all of them were truly waiting for the coming of the Messiah. King Herod and the people around Herod are those people. They enjoyed benefits from the Romans. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, allowed each region to continue having its own king although he governed the region through his governor directly sent by him.
King Herod was the king of the region of Judea, although the real power belonged to the Roman governor, Quirinius. As a result, King Herod and those associated with Herod essentially worked for the Romans, and in turn, they received benefits from the Romans. Surely they did not like the Romans, but they enjoyed what they got from the Romans. Thus, they maintained a delicate balance with the Romans to maximize their benefits. Therefore, their relationship with the Romans was quite different from ordinary people’s. In reality, they did want to perpetuate the status quo to continue their lifestyle. Although they were the king and the officials for the people living in Judea, they took care of themselves, not the ordinary people living in Judea.
Some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
The wise men came from the far east. They carefully studied and knew the birth of the newborn King of the Jews as the Savior and the Messiah before anyone in Jerusalem knew this monumental event, which included both Israelites (i.e., Jews) and the Romans. The three wise men traveled a long distance to see and worship the newborn King. But King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
King Herod called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
We know the reason why Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. The first census made both Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem. Augusta, Roman Emperor, ordered the first census to levy more taxes, but it was used to fulfill the prophecy. If not, Mary would have stayed in Nazareth, and the Savior would have been born in Nazareth. Nothing can be done without God’s permission, and all work together to fulfill God’s will without exception.
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29)
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
After this interview, the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were the finest gifts that they could bring.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. Although King Herod made a cunning lie to the wise men to kill Jesus Christ, he couldn’t. God blocked King Herod’s vicious plan.
The greatest event of the entire human history was the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Messiah, and the Lord. It was the Good News to the shepherds in the field at night, as well as the three wise men from the far east. All rejoiced by visiting the newborn King, Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Messiah, and worshipped the newborn King.
On the other hand, the birth of the newborn King was the biggest threat to King Herod, and the people receiving benefits by associating with King Herod. They were troubled by the Good News and plotted to kill the newborn King.
Why were there two fundamentally different groups of people? The first group was truly waiting for their Savior and Messiah from God, but the latter group was not. The first group readily received the Good News from above in joy, but the latter immediately focused on the earthly matter not to lose things on earth. They loved things on earth and plotted to destroy the Good News from above by killing the newborn King.
How about us? Are we the shepherds in the field or the three wise men from the far east? Or are we King Herod or the people with King Herod?
In this blessed Advent season, we are praying for God’s peace on you, on whom God’s favor rests!
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20b)