When I think about Christmas, I realise that I came into the world having nothing to do with my birth. I showed up without planning it. When Jesus came into the world it was the most dangerous mission ever undertaken by a Baby. He came knowing the battles He would face and knowing the ultimate end of His life on earth would be a week like no other in human history. He came to live, die and be raised to life again in the greatest drama mankind has ever seen.
Rome was a corrupt government morally and spiritually; its sins were shamelessly committed for all to see. The death of innocents in the Coliseum was a major form of entertainment. Its emperors wanted to be worshipped and their gods were evil creations. Rome spread the darkness of paganism in every place that they had influence.
Herod, was an infamous madman and was made king by the Roman Senate, which proclaimed him “King of Judea.” Once in power, he immediately killed forty-five of the wealthiest citizens and confiscated their property for his own use. He was incurably ill, nearly 70-years-old, and insane in Matthew chapter 2 when the Magi came looking for Jesus. While the killing of all the male babies in Bethlehem under two years of age shocks us, it was typical of Herod. He had slaughtered his sons and executed his favourite wife, Mariamne. Even the good guys, the religious Pharisees, would be enemies of Jesus. His message would unsettle and irritate them until they would finally conspire and bring about His execution in the most agonising way possible – crucifixion.
The world was dark when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, amongst the immoral Romans, heinous Herod and self-important religious leaders, it wasn’t a place we would have chosen to enter. Yet, Jesus came into that world voluntarily.
It was a wicked world that received the Baby in Bethlehem; but because of His willingness to enter our darkness, the angels were able to announce: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Christmas means that God was willing to come into a dark place and bring the light of salvation and because of Him, salvation is available to all of us.
Robert Robinson was an English clergyman who lived in the 18th century. Not only was he a gifted pastor and preacher, he was also a highly gifted poet and hymn writer. However, after many years in the pastorate his faith began to diminish. He left the ministry and moved to Paris where he indulged in an ungodly lifestyle.
One night he was riding in a carriage with a Parisian socialite who had recently been converted to Christ. She was interested in his opinion on some poetry she was reading:
“Come thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace,
Streams of mercy never failing,
Call for hymns of loudest praise.”
When she looked up from her reading, the socialite noticed Robinson was crying. “What do I think of it?” he asked in a broken voice. “I wrote it. But now I’ve drifted away from him and can’t find my way back.”
“But don’t you see?” the woman said gently, “The way back is written right here in the third line of your poem: ‘Streams of mercy never failing.’ Those streams are flowing even here in Paris tonight.” That night Robinson recommitted his life to Christ.
For the wanderers like Robinson, for the religious like Nicodemus the Pharisee, for the Roman collaborators like Matthew the tax collector, and for all of us, salvation has come. Jesus has entered our unlit world to bring the light of salvation to everyone who will believe. This can be the most wonderful Christmas ever for those who realise that “streams of mercy” are still flowing because of that first Christmas.