Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
Don’t get me wrong; Silent Night is a beautiful song, and we sing it every year. And I refuse to ever be one of those annoying scolds who nitpicks the minutia of every song, desperate to establish their own importance by critiquing the works of others rather than producing anything of worth themselves. But I still smile just a bit when I really consider just how un-silent most of the first Christmas really was. Honestly, it was perhaps the most disjointed and noisy and stressful of any Christmas that has ever been.
Politics in our day is pretty stressful, no? Especially with President Biden issue an executive order making all of our taxes infinitely worse. In fact, everyone is now going to be required to go back to their original hometown, no matter how far away or inconvenient, and go to City Hall and enroll in person for the new taxes that will be taken from them.
Actually, though I am not even remotely a fan, that decree was not from our current POTUS. It was from Caesar Augustus. Sure, we have political issues these days, more than I even care to think about. I often suspect that if people in that ancient world could get a current glimpse of Washington, DC, they would scream, “Stop the clock! Those people are clinically insane, and it appears to be highly contagious! But the point is Mary and Joseph lived in a stressful political environment; everyone in those days did. And it would only get worse when the second major Christmas scene took place two years later.
Forty years or so before the birth of Christ, a man named Herod the Great lied and cheated his way into power. He became the illegitimate king of the Jews, though he was descended from Edom. Aren’t you glad we in our day never have any conflicts as to whether or not someone is in office unjustly? I cannot imagine what that would be like…
Two years after Christ was born, Herod became aware of him. He conned visiting foreign dignitaries into going to search for him, assuring them that he wanted to worship the newborn king along with them. But after they found him, being warned of God in a dream about what was really happening, they skipped town without going back to give Herod the intel he needed.
But Herod was not so easily dissuaded. Deprived of the opportunity to cleanly kill just one troublesome tot, he settled on killing countless babes; all of them in and around Bethlehem two years old and under were slaughtered. And with the crowds doubtless still there due to the taxation, there were so many killed that the Bible describes it as a bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Our day is not the first to grapple with people viewing babies as impediments to their chosen lifestyle, to be discarded at will.
And then there were personal issues in the home. We could begin with the fact that Mary had her life planned out, a happy plan to marry the man to whom she was espoused, settle down, and have and raise babies, and then had that plan upended entirely. When Gabriel showed up and offered her the chance to be the virgin mother of the Son of God, she risked everything with her answer: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And sure enough, when Joseph learned she was pregnant, he started divorce proceedings. Silent night, stressful night, things at home are not all right!
Fortunately for Mary, God sent Gabriel to explain things to Joseph, and Joseph believed and obeyed. They would have a normal marriage later, including at least six more children, but for now, he would marry his bride and not touch her romantically until after Christ was born and Mary was purified.
Then there was the poverty. Are you looking at your checkbook and wondering how to make ends meet this year? Mary and Joseph knew all about that. They offered the sacrifice of parents in poverty, and they had only strips of cloth with which to wrap their baby.
How about “company issues.” Are you tensing up at the likelihood that you will have to be around people who, in one way or another, make your blood pressure spike and have you reaching for the Tylenol? Thinks about this. On the very night Jesus was born, total strangers, shepherds, showed up and asked to see him. The first time they went to the Temple, an old man they did not know reached out and took him from them and held him for a bit. And then, a while later, great men from the East showed up at their house unannounced, probably when there were piles of laundry everywhere.
And then, they suddenly had to leave the country for a couple of years. But here is what you really need to know: because they were with Jesus, everything turned out just fine. Silent night? Not exactly. Some of it probably was, precious moments here and there, but it was really more like Normal Night. It was an odd mix of peaceful and terrifying, happy and melancholy, confident and confusing, faithful and fearful.
Just like this Christmas and all of the rest of our days, here and now.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com, and his books are available by clicking the Store link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner