Christmas Meditation: It All Mattered

What does Alexander the Great have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel?

Or what does the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at a battle in Greece have to do with His birth and His message?

 Gerard van Honthorst Dutch 1590-1656

Gerard van Honthorst
Dutch 1590-1656

This time of year we like to go straight to the stable: backlit, with all the players carefully arranged around the baby in the manger.

I want to go to the stable, too. But I would also like some context, some idea why God sent His Son at that particular time in history.

So, here is some context.

The Great Silence

The voices of the prophets, which had encouraged and comforted, warned and judged the Jewish people throughout their history, were silent for more than 400 years – the time between the Old and New Testaments. 400 years. Can you imagine no Word from the Lord since 1612?

True, Temple worship continued, but the Law had been horribly perverted. The people were now crushed under a mountain of manmade rules imposed by a tough religious hierarchy.

And their territories were occupied by the greatest military force the world had ever seen.

God is never capricious, last-minute, or haphazard.  When He sent His Son, every detail was attended to. Even empire and language were in place.

Alexander the Great: Language                                                                                  

 Very young. Very   ambitious.

Young.  Ambitious.

Consider that 300 years before the birth of Jesus, a young Macedonian general named Alexander conquered the world from Greece to present-day Pakistan.

Why should we know this?

  •  For one thing, he showed great consideration to the Jews, sparing Jerusalem. He offered immunity to Jews settling in the new city in Egypt bearing his name: Alexandria. This was probably where Joseph took his small family while Herod raged in Judea.
  •  And consider that wherever he conquered, Alexander built cities, spread Greek culture, and established Greek as the language of the realm. Thinking ahead, how was the Gospel going to be preached and shared across numerous cultures in a short amount of time? Thanks to Alexander the Great, it would be in a common language: Greek.

Caesar Augustus: Empire

Thirty years before the birth of Christ, the Roman general, Octavian defeated the combined forces of Marc Antony and Cleopatra in a battle off the coast of Greece.

 Ancient Roman road.

Ancient Roman road.

Rome now had its first emperor: Caesar Augustus – “Caesar” from poor Julius, and “Augustus”, meaning  “exalted.” His reign, as the Roman Empire expanded, marked the beginning of a long period of stability known as the Pax Romana. Orderly government. Rule of law. Trade flourished on the remarkable roads engineered throughout the Empire.

Why should we know this?

  • The Gospel spread swiftly throughout the known world on this very efficient (and generally safe) highway system.
  • It also moved quickly due to the relative political stability of the empire.

It all mattered.

When Jesus was born, the way had been prepared. Every detail, macro and micro. Emperor and innkeeper.

Fact is, He is no less mindful of me. I know the plans I have for you. . . (Jer. 29:11)

Do I believe that?

 

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