It had been a long 400 years of silence. Malachi had been the last “official” word from God. Now the silence was deafening. Life went on but where was God? Did He care? Did He leave them? Did He forget them? Had He washed His
hands of them? Did they misinterpret what He said to them?
God had used prophets throughout Israel’s history to tell His people what He wanted them to do. He wanted them to rebuild the temple and worship Him only. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. Their history was very sketchy with God. It was a history of obedience then rebellion then obedience then idolatry – up and down, back and forth. Most of them hadn’t listened to the prophets – there were a few that were obedient, a remnant. Most continued to disobey God. He warned them that their disobedience would be judged.
And then God got quiet. He didn’t say anything to His people. He didn’t say anything for 400 years. That’s a long time!
God’s people went through a hard time. But He was silent. Maybe He had forgotten them – but He said He wouldn’t. Maybe something happened to Him – but He is eternal. Maybe He went away – but He is always near.
The ones who were obedient were hopeful that God would one day speak to them again. They hoped year after year. They had no idea how He would speak and He surprised them. He didn’t shout from heaven. He didn’t stand on a street corner preaching. He didn’t send a letter. He sent a baby – His very own Son!
Why that’s ridiculous! Absurd. How would a baby bring victory over oppression? Peace to war and conflict – especially those in my own heart and mind? Who would devise such a plan? Can a mere baby do anything about my fears of the future and guilt of the past? Why would God think such a crazy plan would work? And for what reason?
Why expose Himself to the ugliness of the world? Foolishness. A baby isn’t relevant.
Or maybe, just maybe God is onto something! A baby is innocent and pure. A baby is sweet and tender. A baby brings people together. But wait a minute a baby grows up! This just doesn’t make sense. How would a baby make a difference?
Let’s ask the shepherds that had heard the angel’s message and then went to the stable to see the baby. They were glorifying God and praising Him all the way back to the fields. Or ask the magi. They bowed and worshipped the baby and before they left, they gave lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . Odd gifts for a child. No toys among these gifts.
Well, at least the gold could provide for their needs. But frankincense? It was an expensive spice which was the only spice allowed on the temple altar. And myrrh? It was used in embalming?
What was all that about? It speaks to the treasure to be found in Jesus. As the song says, “I rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” It speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus that would end the need for blood sacrifice it the temple. It speaks of Jesus’ death.
So what does all that gruesome stuff have to do with the baby and Christmas? Everything. That’s what it is all about.