The Light of Hope
Today’s Text: Isaiah 60:1, 3
The world needed hope. The political climate in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, however, was anything but hopeful.
Caesar Augustus ruled the world and Herod the Great governed Judea. Herod’s governance was hauntingly reminiscent of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) whose goal was the eradication of the Jewish people through coercive assimilation.
Like Antiochus, Herod surrounded himself with Greek scholars and imposed Hellenistic culture on his subjects. While he did not desecrate the altar, Herod’s temple renovation project reflected the decadence of Hellenism.
Rome was ruthless governing with cruel pragmatism and little concerned about inconvenience to Roman subjects. There was an occupational force in Judea that acted on authority from Caesar to squelch insurgency. Even something as mundane as a census was a hardship for the population. Luke records that Caesar Augustus imposed such a census requiring everyone to return to their hometown.
And, it was Caesar’s decree in point of fact that obligated Joseph and young, pregnant Mary to make the uncomfortable and dangerous, week-long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Suddenly a ray of hope arose in the cruel environment of the Roman Empire.
As temple shepherds tended their sheep in the fields of Bethlehem, the darkness exploded into light when an angel materialized before them. After 400 years of silence, God’s messenger proclaimed the Good News:
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). (1)
Jesus birth in Bethlehem was supernatural confirmation that God had not forgotten His primeval promise in the Garden of Eden. (2)
While the angel spoke to the shepherds as representative of the Jewish people, the implications went beyond the scope of national Israel.
Isaiah had predicted the advent of the Redeemer with the message of hope for the nations imbedded in the prophecy:
ISAIAH 60:1, 3
“Arise, shine; for your [Israel’s] light has come . . . The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Isaiah revealed that the Messiah would be given, “as a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6). He also prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isa.9:2). It was a message of hope for the whole world!
Matthew quoted the prophecy to affirm Jesus’ earthly ministry in Galilee (Mt. 4:15-16). The apostle Paul quoted the same prophecy to validate his ministry to the nations when he declared, “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47).
That was always God’s plan.
The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was like the first ray of dawn arising on a world enveloped in darkness. The world still needs that message of hope. Prevailing culture is shrouded in darkness and desperately needs the light of hope. Jesus confirmed, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).
You can reclaim Christmas by bringing the Light back into season. He is the only hope for the world.
1) The phrase translated “I bring you good tidings” is the Greek word, εὐαγγελίζομαι (evangelizomai), the source of the English word “evangelize.” The angel and the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds near Bethlehem were the first evangelists.
2) The prophet Micah specifically pinpointed Bethlehem as the location of the Messiah’s (Greek: Kristos) birth. Now, some 700 years later, Caesar’s edict had guaranteed the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy (Mic. 5:2).
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2017, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
Categories: RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS