Christmas Devotion – December 20

For several years, I read through the Bible in a year. One evening in my nightly devotions, I completed the reading of the Old Testament. The following night I simply turned a few pages and commenced reading the New Testament. The historical transition between the Testaments was not so simple.

The period between the Testaments is often referred to as “The Silent Years.” During this 400 year period, God did not speak a prophetic Word of hope, comfort or judgment, only silence. God’s people longed to hear a Word as they prayed for the conquering Messiah to come.  Instead, during those 400 years there was silence from heaven and the Greeks, then the Selucids, and finally the Romans came and conquered.

Sometimes, God may seem silent to us. As a Christian, I know I am equipped to be “more than a conqueror,” yet sometimes I am conquered by some of the same struggles and sorrows. Many of us know God’s promises. God is working for our good in all things. Yet sometimes we ask “what good?” as we wonder and wait for the “our good.” Life can seem so personally difficult and God can seem so detached from our disappointments.

We turn on the morning and evening news and are painfully reminded of violence in our community, deepening divisions in our country, and the empty rhetoric of our leaders. We can cynically wonder “what is the destiny of our nation and world?” Where is God in the midst of the mess of this world?

It is historically true. For over 400 years God did not speak His Word. But, He was far from silent. God was working through some of the most improbable people, unlikely circumstances, and most dubious human nations and empires. Between God’s Word to Malachi and Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, Alexander the Great conquered the world and subsequently, the world was enculturated with the Greek language and philosophy. In those same 400 years, Rome grew from a small republic with a disdain for kings to a world empire which ruled lands and populations from Babylon to England and everything in between.

What the Greeks were to philosophy, language and culture, the Romans were to military conquest and empire construction. For example, the Romans were so effective at engineering that 2,000 years later many of the modern roads of Europe are constructed on top of the ancient Roman road system. Trade routes were so secure that travel and commerce were safer and more profitable than any time in history. Economic growth was accelerated by the secure trade routes, a common language, coinage and the Pax Romana throughout the empire. The Romans were simply the best at establishing, growing and maintaining what many consider the greatest empire in human history.

All this took place in the “silent years,” the 400 years between the Testaments. But God was not silent. God was preparing to personally enter this world. “In the fullness of time, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). And because there was a common philosophy, language, coinage, a Roman road system, Roman governance, and the Pax Romana, when Jesus Christ was born, it was an unprecedented time in human history when one man from an obscure village in a tiny part of the known world who never travelled more than 180 miles from his hometown could begin a movement which would spread throughout the massive Roman empire within a few generations. 

Be encouraged this Christmas. God may not be working in the manner we think, planned or hoped, but He is working. Before Christ came, many doubted the veracity of God’s Word and discarded all hope in His kingdom coming. God seemed silent. And it was in that moment in history, God spoke, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11).

His word is just as spiritually powerful and as historically transformative today as it was 2,000 years ago. His word is for you, your family, community, nation and world. Sing and pray His word today and this Christmas.

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee”