We all have our ideas of what Bethlehem was like on the day Jesus was born. To us here in Nebraska City, I would like for us to think of the time we know as Applejack, only let’s extend it for a month. Can you imagine the confusion that would be here? Many of us are not used to that much traffic or navigating around that many people. To some, life would be a real nightmare, while to others this would be a real celebration. With this many people in a town like Bethlehem, which was never used to these numbers, you can agree with me that many things could have easily happened and few would have known about it. At this chaotic time, the Prince of Peace was born. His coming was announced by the angels but not everybody heard.
In those days, when Jesus was born, there were all kinds of noises or messages that were going around. Some were louder than others. I would like, this Christmas, to explore some of the noises. There were two clear voices that were heard in those days. How do those voices contract with the noises around us today?
1. The Voice of Angels: There were several interactions between the angels and the Holy Family around the birth of Jesus. I would like to life four of these announcements that the angel did. First, when the angel appears to Mary to let her know that she had been chosen to carry the Holy Child. It was a frightening encounter for the young girl to have a conversation with the angel. The second announcement was when the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm what Mary had told him. She had told him that she was pregnant with a baby through the Holy Spirit. The third announcement is when the baby was born in Bethlehem. This announcement came to the shepherds who were the night shift, who sometimes today we would call the graveyard shift. They were the lowest category of the shepherds. The fourth was when Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and the baby out of Bethlehem to Egypt to hide them from Herod. I would like us to pay attention to the angel that appears to the shepherds. This angel comes to bring good news to the them. The angel announces the birth of Christ, who was to be the savior of the world and he was Emmanuel (God with us). As we read from the Bible, the shepherds responded accordingly and they went to worship the new king.
2. The Voice of Herod: The second voice that came in those days, loud and clear, was that of Herod, not seeking to worship the new king but to kill him. There are many interpretations that we can put to this, but Herod represented that same voice we can identify today as the voice of the devil. Herod wanted to physically kill the Baby Jesus but was outsmarted by God and the baby was away and safe. But there were many other mothers that were crying because their baby boys would be killed by Herod as he sought the new king. I believe today Herod lives in this world in a different way and is busy trying to kill the baby (the spirit) in the life of believers. Our only chance is to hide this baby from the arm of the killer who is the devil. We used to sing a chorus when we were growing up about making sure you hide under the blood of Jesus and the devil will never be able to get you. (Nime jificha kwenye mwamba mwamba usio tingingizika. Msalaba diyo ngao yangu msalba ndiyo nguzo yangu). The baby in us is killed if we expose ourselves to the wrong company, feed the baby the wrong food, or even when we neglect the baby. So, my question to you this evening is: Is your baby safe?
3. The Noise of Us: Christmas time has become the noisiest time of our lives. We are almost on overdrive trying to catch up with the demands of the world. We catch ourselves in the middle of high shopping gear and trying to keep up with our regular jobs. Even with online shopping people are still overwhelmed by what needs to be done, making sure we have gifts for everyone and that they are all wrapped. Have you ever stopped to think that Christmas is not YOUR birthday? Then the question is: whose birthday is it? If it’s not yours, then what are you giving to the birthday child this year? I know you’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, Pastor!’ The lights are shining on our streets, in our yards, and even in our churches. The music is in the air and the birds are singing. All of these can be noises around us that hinder each one of us from checking where the baby is (the Holy Spirit).
Is you baby fed, clothed and protected? Or have you allowed the noises of Christmas to overshadow you?