Daily Devotionals

Christmas Lights in Babylon

Pastor Daniel Bramlett

God used Babylon. The evil empire did not sweep through Israel without His permission. Nor did it sweep through unconnected to Israel’s outright rebellion to God. When the armies of Babylon came Israel was at its lowest point. They had utterly forsaken their God and Rescuer. They had forgotten the magnificent ways He had delivered them in the past. What was left of their worship was but a shell of their former glory and recognition of God in their midst. So God used Babylon. 

God used Moab, Philistia, Egypt, and many other Godless nations. At the hands of these nations the people of God suffered, but their suffering was not misspent. The suffering endured during these periods of captivity produced in Israel a deep desire for a Rescuer. They had experienced a desire for rescue (little ‘r’) before. The land would rest for so many years and the next generation would lead them right back into rebellion. Now they were longing for the Rescuer (capital ‘R’). They wanted something permanent to happen. They wanted more than a temporary home. They needed permanent residency. They wanted more than intermediate peace. They needed Heaven to come down and still the wars of restless nations. 

At just the right time God sent Jesus. Everything was wrong about His coming. No palace roof witnessed His bed. No royal court heard His birth announcement. No privileged few watched Him crawl, speak, and walk. No Jesus, the King of the world, was born to the least of these, lived with the poor, ate like a pauper, and got as dirty as a sheep growing up. But…

Hanging over His head was a star. In the minds of His parents rang the words “…you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” He must have enjoyed hanging out with the Shepherds in Bethlehem who told Him stories of the night He was born. On the shelves in their tiny Nazareth home were golden vessels containing royal perfumes and lotions. This child raised in physical poverty would be raised to break the chains of spiritual poverty for the whole world.

This Christmas season I would challenge you not to begrudge your stance in life. Christmas in Arkansas can quickly become very glamorous. All the lights and glitz and glamour are nice, but it’s not really Christ-like. There’s nothing wrong with Santa and parties and fancy gifts. But know that’s not why we celebrate the poverty stricken family of Nazareth. 

If you are privileged enough to enjoy the glitter first hand, you must work to remember our Rescuer lived on dirt floors, got splinters in His already blistered hands, and ate the most basic fare on a daily basis. He did not come to Rescue us from physical poverty. Our glamour is not evidence of His presence. If you find yourself more in the stable than the palace this Christmas, find joy! It is much easier to discover the presence of the Holy without all the shiny things to distract us. Imagine yourself as a Shepherd, lying in a bed of grass, suddenly awakened by a gleaming night sky filled with angels. There cannot be a Christmas party that can even compare with the glory they witnessed that night! Imagine yourself in a smelly manger, hearing the cries of a newborn named Emmanuel. Imagine yourself at the feet of Mary and Joseph receiving the gifts of the Magi and being overwhelmed that royalty would visit your home. And imagine Jesus on your couch, at your table, in your bedroom…and thank Him for His presence.

If you are up against the greatest oppression in your life; if you feel that all of Babylon is coming against you because of your sin or someone’s sin near you, do not let bitterness set in. Babylon is just a tool. It’s a precursor to Christmas. The Rescuer has come. The Deliverer is here! Take heart because discipline never lasts forever. Let God work His way with you. Give Him freedom to purge the darkness from your life. Come to the manger with the rest of us and witness the glory of the King.

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