Devotionals

11.17.2021 Devotional

Dear Friends,

Bedlam in Bethlehem

It’s our time of Advent, and during these weeks leading up to Christmas, we get to better understand the world that Jesus was born into.

You must wonder, how could there ever have been anything even approaching bedlam in a sleepy little town like Bethlehem? Jerusalem, yes. That was the capital, the big city. The center of politics, finance, and religion. Jerusalem was a busy, vital city teeming with people and activity. But Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah put it, was "small among the clans of Judah." It was more Mayberry than Manhattan. There were not many people in Bethlehem, and not much mischief to get into. So, how could there have been bedlam?

There was bedlam at that particular moment in history because the population of small-town Bethlehem had swelled way past its capacity to house the people coming in. Descendants from "the house and lineage of David" had been forced to return to Bethlehem from all over the country to be registered for the census. The point of this registration was to make certain no one escaped paying taxes to the occupying forces that had invaded their land and were not merely unwelcome but actually were despised by the people who called Israel "home."

For the most part, those Roman invaders were oppressive and often abusive. And now hordes of people had been forced to come to little Bethlehem to register so that Caesar could find them and force them to pay taxes to an insufferable enemy.

Strangers were everywhere. Soldiers were everywhere. Degradation and denigration were everywhere. And so, not just physically, but socially, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, there was bedlam in Bethlehem.

Many long years before, in a similar time of oppression, a Hebrew prophet said, "How can we sing peace when there is no peace?" Well, there was no peace in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. But then, isn't that when a Prince of Peace is needed most of all, when there is no peace? That's the kind of world the Prince of Peace was born into then, and the kind of world He is born into every Christmas. Even now.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he understood the kind of world I just described. He knew that his friends in Philippi would soon face, and even then, were facing persecution and rejection because of their faith. Paul wrote to them while he was confined to a Roman prison cell under the sentence of death because of his faith. He knew about bad times and bedlam. He was also wise enough not to try and peddle empty hope or a Pollyanna type of religion to people who were too wise to swallow that and too worn and weary to waste time listening to fairy tales.

Instead, in his dire situation writing to people in their own dire situations, he said; "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." He wasn’t writing about a sense of peace that denied the painful realities of life, but instead a peace that existed in the midst of these realities. It was a sense of peace not based on logic, but rather on relationship. Not based on the environment around you, but rather on the Friend beside you: a “peace that surpasses understanding--guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus," who has been born to us, for us, to be with us in our times of bedlam.

Certainly, the principles of our Christian Faith do have the potential, if heard and embraced, to change the world. Those principles replace hatred with grace and violence with the statement, "This is My commandment, that you love one another." But, until the world begins to hear and embrace those truths and until it changes, even amid the ongoing bedlam of our 21st century Bethlehem existence--there is still another kind of peace available to us, one that surpasses understanding, one that is more personal than political, and one that gives us the strength to survive whatever the world throws our way. May it be so.

Blessings,

Pastor Denise

Announcements

1. Church Cleanup Day scheduled for this Saturday is being postponed. We will let you know once a new date has been chosen.

2. Celebration of Life for George Thompson this Saturday, November 20th at 2:00pm, here at the church. We would love for you to join us and share your love with Sybil as we celebrate George's life.

3. Charge Conference for this Sunday, November 21st at 1:00pm with our District Superintendent Kathleen Weber.

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