If news networks had been invented in 1809, they would’ve covered one
story: Napoleon sweeping across Austria like a wildfire. Napoleon was the
talk of the world, on the move from Trafalgar to Waterloo. Everything was about Napoleon.
Now, at the same time, babies were being born, but who cared? Someone
should have! Whole cadres of world-changers took their first breaths in
1809. Let’s take a trip back and see for ourselves.
Our first stop: Liverpool, where Baby William is meeting the world. No one
has a clue he’s destined to become Great Britain’s Prime
Minister—not once, not twice, not three times, but four times.
William Gladstone, 1809.
Cross the Atlantic to Cambridge, and you’ll hear the cry of another
baby named Oliver. A prodigy, Oliver enters Harvard at 16, graduates before
20, gets his medical degree, practices medicine, and begins teaching at
Dartmouth and Harvard. Today, his legacy includes a long list of
still-respected books. Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809.
Travel up and cross the Charles River until you get to Boston, where
another baby, Edgar, is being born. Edgar’s father quickly abandons
him; soon after, his mother dies. A family named Allan take Edgar in, and
he takes their last name as his middle. He becomes the father of the
American short story. Edgar Allan Poe, 1809.
Back across the pond, journey to Shropshire, where a family welcomes their
fifth child, a boy. Soon, they realize they have a young scientist on their
hands. Before he dies, he’s spread his theory of evolution around the
world. Charles Darwin, 1809.
Over in Lincolnshire, Baby Alfred takes his first breath. Before he’s
buried, he becomes the poet laureate of Ireland and Great Britain, still
among the most admired and prolific poets. Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809.
We can’t leave out a one-room log cabin in Kentucky, where Thomas and
Nancy are thrilled to welcome their second child, whom they name after his
grandfather. They can little imagine their baby will lead the nation
through civil war. Abraham Lincoln, 1809.
All these men born in 1809 . . . but who cared? Few historical buffs could
name one of Napoleon’s campaigns! What seemed super-significant
proved, ultimately, no more exciting than a Sunday-afternoon nap. What
seemed totally insignificant was, in fact, the genesis of an era.
Let’s go back farther, to the first century. Rome captivated the
world. Bordered by the Atlantic, the Euphrates, the Danube and the Rhine,
and the burning sands of the Sahara, the Roman Empire was vast and vicious.
Political intrigue, racial tension, rampant immorality, and enormous
military might occupied everyone’s attention. All eyes were on
Augustus—the Caesar who demanded a census.
No one cared about a couple making the 90-mile trip from Nazareth to
Bethlehem. What could be more important than Caesar’s decisions in
Yet, mighty Augustus had unintentionally become a mere errand boy for the
fulfillment of Micah’s prediction. While Rome was busy making
history, God arrived. He pitched His fleshly tent on straw in a humble
Bethlehem stable. Reeling from the wake of the Greats—Alexander,
Herod, and Augustus—the world overlooked Jesus.
It still does. Many believers do too.
Our times aren’t altogether different than 1809 or even the first
century. That list of Roman distractions sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Political intrigue. Racial tension. Rampant immorality. Enormous military
might. To enhance our tunnel vision, we DO have news networks. Most of us
have smartphones that alert us to every new development in (and
friend’s opinion about) the “it” story. It’s easy
to get sucked into the fear and anxiety.
Don’t misread me. The events flashing across our news channels
matter. Some of them have deeply impacted you. They are not trivial. But
make no mistake—Satan wants to distract you from the message of
Christmas. It’s a message we need today as much as those who lived
under the crushing weight of Rome’s heavy boot.
So, here it is: Immanuel—God with Us.
Christmas is about God’s coming down to live in this weary world with us. The long-awaited Messiah finally letting out His first
cry. The Savior, the only Hope for a world that drowns Him out. The
conquering King of Kings, who is coming again to make wrong right once and
That King is OUR King!
As life rages around you, please pause. Feel the truth of God’s
drawing near to you. Let His Word drive out your fear and let His hope bind
your heart. Fix your eyes on Him and receive your King!