Happy and Blessed New Year!
Greetings in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and God’s awesome power split the Red Sea. The two million Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea to the other side, and the Pharaoh’s army chased down the Israelites to the Red Sea.
The rear of the people heard the approaching of the Pharaoh’s army with running horses and chariots. The Pharaoh’s warriors were equipped with the world’s best weapons, swords, and spears, which slashed and pierced many nations before, which fell before the Pharaoh’s army. The distance to the Pharaoh’s formidable army, which was the world’s best at that time, was quickly evaporating.
The scene became chaotic. The people at the rear started pushing and screaming in fear of the rapidly approaching Pharaoh’s army, which would kill whoever was in front with one swing of the sword. Who would not run at that moment?
Moses looked back and saw the coming of Pharaoh’s army, tenaciously following his people down to the middle of the Red Sea. Moses could not believe his own eyes. Without extraordinary courage, it would not be possible to get into the passage made by God for the Israelites in the middle of the Red Sea. They tested God, indeed.
Then, Moses prayed to God while watching the approaching Pharaoh’s army with horses and chariots. Despite his prayer, the Pharaoh’s army was getting closer and closer. Moses had to move the Israelites swiftly to the other side of the Red Sea. He walked faster in front of the Israelites to speed up to the other side.
As walking, Moses kept praying in his heart. With God’s help, initially, the Israelites walked away from the threat of the Pharaoh’s army through the passage opened up through the Red Sea by God. Initially, the Pharaoh’s army was hesitant to follow the Israelites, but soon they chased the Israelites by getting into the same passage made by God for the Israelites. Thus, the situation ended up the same before crossing the Red Sea. It was a truly nail-biting moment for Moses. The entire Israelites trusted Moses and blindly followed like sheep. Moses had many trials throughout his journey with God before, but it was one of the tensest moments. Time was a true enemy. Moses could neither outrun the Pharaoh’s army nor stop the Pharaoh’s army’s advance. They were quickly approaching the Israelites.
Was God deaf to Moses’ prayer? No. Just before dawn, God raised His hand on the Egyptian army and moved and placed the pillar of fire and cloud between the Pharaoh’s army and the Israelites. God threw their forces into total confusion. God twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “God is fighting for them against Egypt!”
Soon, some of the Pharaoh’s army started to run back and ran away in fear of God. However, Pharaoh gave a stern order, “None is allowed to run back, but to chase the Israelites to bring them back. Again, if anyone resists, immediately eliminate them. You have the world’s best swords, chariots, spears, and horses.” Then Pharaoh’s high-rank officers drew their swords and moved out to show Pharaoh’s firm determination. They were standing at the passage’s entrance in the middle of the Red Sea, ready to slay anyone coming out of it.
The Pharaoh’s army found they were trapped between Pharaoh’s high-rank officers drawing swords high to slay anyone coming out of the passage and God’s pillar of fire and cloud blocking the Pharaoh’s army’s advance to the Israelites. Their horses were jolting before God’s pillar of fire and cloud, and both sides were a huge wall of the Red Sea. Many in the middle did not know what was really going on. They just followed along with the movement of the entire army. Soon the whole army realized what was happening and started worrying about their lives. They all feared God but could not return because the Pharaoh’s high-rank officers were waiting and ready to kill whoever came out of the passage through the Red Sea in fear of God.
It was the moment that Moses finally saw God’s hand, for which he prayed and prayed. Without God’s hand, he knew all would perish by the Pharaoh’s army or be captured again to be sent back to Egypt as slaves. Moses praised God as he quickly moved on to the other side while leading his people. The other side was getting closer and closer, but the Pharaoh’s army’s movement was truly sluggish, and then the entire movement soon completely halted. Thus, the gap between his people and the Pharaoh’s army widened. What a relief!
God heard Moses’ prayer and proved Himself again with His mighty arm and power. Then Moses and the Israelites briskly marched to the other side. The Pharaoh’s army was getting smaller and smaller in their view because God kept holding the Pharaoh’s army with His mighty hand using the pillar of fire and cloud. God was faithful indeed.
Finally, Moses reached the other side leading the Israelites. The rest of the Israelites followed. Then, all two million Israelites arrived on the other side. When all the Israelites had reached the other side, God said to Moses,
“Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” (Exodus 14:26)
As the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but God swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
For many of us, 2022 was like the Pharaoh’s army. It tenaciously chased down to us whatever we did and wherever we went. Of course, we prayed, but the situation did not change as we prayed. We ran, but we could not outrun it. We prayed, but we did not see changes. COVID-19 was still with us, and economic hardship came and lived with us. We all kept being hit, and our lives were difficult in 2022.
Even so, 2022 could not do one thing. The time ticked as it should, and 2022 could not block the coming of the most blessed time of the year, Christmas. On the first Christmas day, our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born in Bethlehem 2022 years ago. Yes, 2022 was unable to delay or stop the coming of Christmas. Instead, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, stopped all things in our lives in 2022 also to make us see what God has done for us.
On the first Christmas day, God’s only begotten Son came to this world, not as a king, although He was the King of kings. He came as a human baby and was born in a stable, an animal’s place. Then he was laid on a manger, which was not even a bed. He was humble and meek, but Heaven rejoiced. The host of angels appeared to lowly shepherds who watched the sheep for their master shepherd. Then the host of angels praised the newborn King, Jesus Christ,
“Glory to God in the highest,
Peace On earth, for those whom God’s favor rest” (Luke 2:14)
The lowly shepherd stopped watching their sheep, looked at the host of angels, and heard the praise. At that time, there was nothing but a glorious scene for them. Their night duty was sucked into the glorious scene. None even remembered their night shift anymore. Their night shift was physically demanding, and they were away from their family, sleeping soundly in their homes. Their time on earth stopped at that moment, and they were in the realm of Heaven with the host of the angels who suddenly appeared and praised God.
How did they meet the host of angels? Did they pray for the host of angels to appear and praise God while announcing the birth of the newborn King, Jesus Christ? No. But they waited for someone called Messiah to rescue them from the brutal Roman occupation. They also yearned for Messiah’s coming that night because their earthly lives were hard, and the Roman occupation made their lives unbearable.
But at the moment, they were in a different world where the time of this world literally stopped. Instead, God’s mercy governed the time, and God’s love and grace surrounded them. Nothing was changed outwardly, but they were in awe of God’s everlasting love and grace.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
Once tasting God’s world, none wants to be back to this world again. Rather being there forever while enjoying the time with God in His world eternally to see, touch, experience, and enjoy Him and His presence forever.
The shepherds came back to their senses. The wordly time started ticking again. What was the next step that the shepherds took? Did they go back to watch the sheep while worrying about tomorrow for his family and themselves while ignoring the glorious scene they saw? No. They started to run. They ran and ran to the place that the angels told them.
It was a small stable, not a house attached to an inn. Were they disappointed? No. But they would if they came to the place even a couple of hours ahead. They knew the stable attached to the inn because they had passed in front of it countless times before. But they never expected it would become the special place of the newborn King, the Messiah.
It was different that night. Their ears were still hearing the praises of the host of the angels. The Holy Spirit told them to come into the stable. None hesitated, but humbly they bent their body to get into the small stable.
Suddenly the world was so quiet and calm. Nothing was moving, but their hearts were also calm. They knew they had met the Messiah whom they had waited for a long time. There was unthinkable peace and calmness. They felt God’s mercy, grace, and, most of all, love they could not find anywhere else.
Their heart was singing a new song that they had never heard and learned before. They sang together in one voice while praising God. They repeated what they heard from the angels and bowed down in peace and comfort in God. Their minds were no longer in this world, and true joy and thanksgiving filled their hearts. The time of this world was no longer meaningful to them,
The shepherds must have had the same heart and mind as Jesus’ disciples, Peter, James, and John, had when they saw Jesus, who was transformed. Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But Jesus did not allow Peter, James, and John to do anything because they had to return to their world again. After praising, worshiping, and sharing what they witnessed, the shepherds left the stable to their flock of sheep. The shepherds had the same experience as Jesus’ disciples. The Holy Spirit led the shepherds back to their world and job.
As they walked back, they had a full sense of earthly time. They watched the sheep for the rest of the night. However, they were no longer who they were before meeting the host of the angels praising the birth of Jesus Christ, the newborn King.
They found and met the newborn King, Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Comforter, the Counselor, and the Prince of Peace, which transformed them. It was one night experience, but it was a lifelong experience. They experienced the time in the world completely stopped while immersed in God’s grace, mercy, and love while seeing the newborn King, the Messiah. That night stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
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 9:6)
The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and arrived at the other side, and they were truly joyful and thanked God not because they crossed the Red Sea but because they experienced true freedom without the fear of the Pharaoh’s army that tenaciously chased the Israelites. The new day was dawn, and they knew they would no longer see the Pharaoh’s army.
The lowly shepherd waited and waited for the Messiah because their lives were harsh under the Romans, but the Romans had never left their country. They had to obey whatever the Romans told them to do so. They had to pay hefty taxes. The Romans brutally squeeze out to the last penny out of them. Additionally, watching sheep at night was not easy. Their body kept demanding a good sleep with their families in a warm bed.
The lowly shepherds always waited for the day they were freed from the Romans. Finally, they saw the Messiah. As soon as they saw Him, they felt that true peace comes from the true Messiah who eternally rescued them from all bondages of the world where they lived. They believed only true freedom came from the true Messiah, the newborn King, Jesus Christ, and they met Him. They were filled with unforgettable eternal joy on the day of the first Christmas.
After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said about the newborn King, the Messiah. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished. They shared their peace with God in Christ, and it spread to the townspeople, the next town, and so forth. The Good News went on from people to people, and the new world came among those who heard the Good News and believed Jesus Christ as the Messiah and their own Savior.
The year 2022 tenaciously chased us with COVID-19 and many other hardships, but it could not prevent us from having our true Christmas in our hearts. The year 2022 has now completely gone and is no longer with us. The passing of the year 2022 is only a part of our story. On Christmas, we, God’s children, have again experienced Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas day, as our Savior, the Messiah. In Him, we are truly above all things and free from all hardships, disappointments, and heartaches brought by 2022.
In this year, 2023, we will be different from day one. We will walk with God joyfully as the Israelites did after crossing the Red Sea, and the lowly shepherds meet the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who came as a newborn king in the small town of Bethlehem. Peace to all, and God’s grace and mercy may abound throughout 2023 in the love of Jesus Christ!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)