Israel was bustling under a haughty King Herod. Commerce was flowing; goods were being produced, stored, imported, and exported. Palaces, fortresses, and temples were under construction, and Israel was becoming a moving piece within the Roman wheel of industry and technology.
In Luke 2:1-5, we journey with Joseph and Mary to the central moment of the Advent story at Bethlehem, anxious for what God is about to do. Bethlehem was packed with families for a census. Magi were setting out from the East of Persia and were still years off – a great deal was happening! While there were many people in the proximity of this historic work of God, so many seemed to miss it. They still had problems, local and national. Individuals and communities were struggling. There was suffering and success, good and evil, truth and deception. Our Savior King came into all this, and we still miss it.
I am reminded of the 90s movie, The Father of the Bride, where Steve Martin’s character is so busy with the preparations and execution of his daughter’s wedding that he misses the chance to celebrate an irreplaceable moment with his daughter. In the chaos, he missed it.
We may look back across our year and see all the crazy shifts, the various messes, the imperfections, and the numerous areas needing restoration. We wonder if we had worked a little harder, set aside a little more money, or freed up more time, if we could have nailed down and controlled the year a little better. Maybe then we could have had more peace and joy. Perhaps others would be impressed with how well we juggled our lives and made it through this year.
But, as the season and year comes to its end, it is encouraging, in fact stabilizing, to recall that Jesus came down into the chaos of our world. He did not charge into places of efficiency, stability, or good impressions; but into weakness, depletion, and uncertainty. We don’t want to miss it because we don’t want to miss His presence amidst the chaos.
So, as you look around at Christmas, whether you’re encouraged or discouraged, blessed or waning, stretched or secure, know that the hope of Jesus still stands. He came (Advent!), He saved (the Cross!), and He is relentlessly pursuing our hearts and souls. Look with hope through the chaos and don’t miss the one who still comes near to us.