While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:3
Life always seems to get turned upside-down when we least expect it. Trouble keeps us on our toes because it usually happens when we get complacent. Isn’t it always when we get comfortable or just begin to relax, that the proverbial wheels fly off?
When Jesus came the first time, it was during the Pax Romana, the “Roman peace.” This was a period in Rome’s history that spanned the reigns of Augustus and Marcus Aurelius (27BC—180AD). In the Roman empire, things were good; this was Rome in its prime. The empire expanded, roads made travel easier, and individual provinces enjoyed relative peace as they paid taxes in exchange for keeping their own customs and laws.
Then Jesus came. And as his followers began to spread the gospel, things changed. Rome didn’t fall immediately, but Christians were persecuted by many Roman emperors because they worshiped God only—not Caesar. After time, Jesus’ first arrival (during a time of peace and security) helped turned an empire on its head.
This season we celebrate the birth of Jesus (if the songs have it right) on a silent night when all is calm. We have this image of Mary, tired from labor pains, holding a newborn. The imagery in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 closely resembles our picture of Jesus’ first coming — but the apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus’ second coming! To read them during the Advent season is somewhat ironic; these words actually look forward, although they seem to look backward.
As we eagerly await Jesus’ return, let’s not slip into comfort and apathy. Christ is coming back, and all our hope is in the promise of his return. Let’s be ready!
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