The following is taken from Come to the Waters, a year-long devotional of James Montgomery Boice’s writings.
Let’s go to Bethlehem (Luke 2:15).
On the way to the manger, the shepherds went through the city of Bethlehem, seeing it for what it was. When they came to the manger they saw a great contrast. When they left the manger to go back to their fields and their sheep, of necessity they passed through the town again. It was the same town. It was the same sinful, calloused, divided, sad city. In a certain sense, they must have perceived it to be even more sinful, more calloused, more divided and sadder than when they had come in. Having looked into the face of Jesus Christ, they must have seen it for what it really was.
Yet when they had left the manger and went back into the world, they must also have seen the city in a a transformed light. It was indeed worse than they had imagined. But together with seeing it from God’s point of view, they must have also begun to see it as a world God deeply loved and for which he was now sending his own beloved Son to die. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).
Love that world? That sinful, evil, wretched, God-hating, man-destroying world? Yes, God loved that world.
That world? That calloused, cruel, hard, indifferent world? A world so insensitive it would not even make a place for Mary who was about to give birth? A world that would crucify Jesus? Yes, God loved that world.
That world? That sad, grey, dismal, pathetic, miserable, dying world? Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his Son to die for it.
I am sure that what happened is that, having seen Jesus and having, therefore, begun to see the world in God’s way, the shepherds went out into that world and began to regard it a little more like God did. How do we know? We know because we are told that they “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17). They began to say, “The Savior of the world has been born. The hope of the world has come.”
That world is our world too. It is the world in which we live, and that baby was the Christ we have come to believe in and worship. His very name means “Savior.”
So when you are out in the world this Christmas, try seeing the world as those who have first seen Jesus. You will find that the world is everything bad you imagined it to be, and worse. It is sinful, hard, divided, sad, but it is the world for whom Jesus came, and he is its Savior. If you know him as your Savior, love the world and tell people about him. The world desperately needs to hear that message.
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