The first Christmas night was not as serene as we think. History says differently, but what was happening then had some similarities with our situation today.
Keep in mind that Jesus was born under the domain of the Roman Empire. Now put yourself in the sandals of a Jew in first-century Palestine. From youth, you were taught that you are part of God’s chosen people. Yet you look around with chafing despair: how can this be, when we are under the heel of brutal pagans?
It wasn’t as if the Romans just showed up and took over. About 60 years before, Jewish rebels resisted the Roman general Pompey and barricaded themselves inside their Temple in Jerusalem. Pompey besieged the well-fortified Temple for three months and when he finally breached its wall, his soldiers stormed in and massacred the rebels. A historian said that 12,000 Jews fell in that day.
Then Pompey and his men marched into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of the Temple, and ransacked its furnishings. This was appallingly blasphemous to the Jews, because their religion allowed only their high priest to enter that room once a year. Jewish resentment had been festering and there were still pockets of rebellion since then, which grew so bad that the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D.
What’s more, the Roman government exacted taxes. Imagining yourself again as a Jew, parting with some of your hard-earned wages. Perhaps you have barely left to feed your family. To add insult to injury, some of your fellow Jews connived with the enemy, served as their tax collectors, and almost certainly lined their own pockets with corruption.
Understandably, the Jews were longing for a Messiah, who would vanquish the hated Romans so that they can be what they were supposed to be: God’s favored people.
This was the climate when Jesus was born.
Do these sound familiar to you?
· Loss of freedom?
· Drained finances?
· Emotional unrest?
How about covid?
Yet the Christmas story takes us to a bright spot. As we know, a Child is born. He did not grow up inside some safe bubble. Rather, He lived under the same arduous situation as His people did. He shared their stresses, challenges and griefs. He healed, comforted, taught, loved.
You may have gone through tough times the past months: lockdown, business closures, health problems, alienation. Yet we must remember that just as Jesus identified with the plight of His people, He can empathize with yours, too. And just as He came to help and save them, He came to you, too.
I do hope this pandemic will end sooner than later. Yes, we will have the vaccine, but this is not the bright spot. The bright spot is the Christ, to Whom we can turn for compassion and succor.
And one day, He will make everything right.
He didn’t need to come. But He did.
O come let us adore Him!
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