The world into which Jesus was born 2,000 years ago was a troubled one.
Joseph and Mary’s 100-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census was due to an empire-wide decree issued by Caesar Augustus. The imperial edict was primarily for the purpose of taxation, which imposed an enormous burden on the working class.
Rome had been ruling with an iron fist for more than 100 years. Their army had captured nation after nation, and every city throughout Judea was firmly under their dominion. Poverty was commonplace, and the constant threat of famine and drought had taken its toll on the food supply.
As the Prophet Isaiah had said 700 years earlier, Jesus, the Light of the World, would shine on a “people who walked in darkness” and “dwelt in a land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2).
There is no doubt that today’s world is also deeply disturbed and dark. Almost everywhere you look, trouble is brewing, and anxiety about the future is pervasive.
Domestically, inflation is soaring. Despite the abundance of available jobs out there—10 million at last count—businesses can’t seem to find anyone to hire. Of course, COVID-19 is still making the rounds, and authorities have issued vaccine and mask mandates that have created deep divisions. Already, thousands of first responders—firefighters, paramedics and police officers—have been terminated for refusing the vaccine mandate.
Abroad, an aggressive China is on the move, with a military that now rivals that of the United States and in some ways has surpassed us. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said China’s recent launch of a hypersonic missile is a “Sputnik moment,” referring to the space technology race that began when the Russians launched the first satellite in 1957.
And while all of this is very ominous and concerning, I know that the deepest problem we face today is the same as it was when the Savior was born—a spiritual one, not economic, educational, political or military. With the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote to a troubled generation, we can confess that the Lord “will be the stability of [our] times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6).
This means that regardless of how unsettling and chaotic the world is around us, we need not fear. God Almighty is always in control of history, nations and men. He rules over every square inch of this world.
Ultimately it wasn’t Caesar Augustus who brought Joseph and pregnant Mary to the little town of Bethlehem; it was the providential hand of God, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah spoken 700 years earlier: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
And Mary was pregnant not in the ordinary way, but through the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The divine infant born in a stable around 4 B.C. was the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The news of His birth brought “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10, KJV). The bad news is that we are sinners, separated from God. But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came on a rescue mission from Heaven to save us from our sins.
Mankind’s biggest problem is sin, and the only remedy is repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior who died on a cross bearing the sins of the world, was buried, and raised to life on the third day. Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord in this way is forgiven and given the gift of everlasting life.
Preaching that Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is our consuming passion at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. We do so in our Crusades and evangelistic tours across America. We also do so through our internet evangelism program, which has seen more than 17 million people indicate decisions for Jesus Christ.
The miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is what we call the First Advent, the coming of the Savior from Heaven to Earth. But one day, and I believe it is coming soon, there will be a Second Coming of the Lord, a Second Advent, when Jesus once again returns to Earth. And this time, it will be to gather believers—living and dead—to Himself, and to judge those who have refused to repent and believe on His Name.
The Lord Jesus will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
When that occurs, there will be no second chance. God’s judgment on those who have rebelled against Him is final and complete. Justice will reign.
Until then, we will proclaim the Gospel, so that souls may be won to Christ. There is still time now because the Lord is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
I love to celebrate the birth of my Savior, who saved me when I was 22 as I called on His Name in a hotel room in Jerusalem. Though I had heard the message of the Gospel through my father’s preaching a hundred times, I still had to come to a point of personal repentance and faith in the Lord.
It’s been our privilege for many years now—and I pray for many more—to proclaim that powerful message to as many people as we can.
The harvest is ripe.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. The Scripture quotation marked KJV is taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2021 BGEA