Well, 7-days from today will be Christmas Day. The day that, in our society, is almost anti-climatic. In many cases months of preparation come to an end. The frantic shopping is done. Santa Claus, has made his deliveries, gifts will be opened and, hopefully, admired. Others will be slated for return. Large meals will be consumed; and thoughts will turn to beginning the cleaning-up, taking-down and packing-away of the elaborate Christmas decorations, lighting displays, etc. For some, there is the excitement of spending their gift money at the after Christmas sales. And many will be happy for the fact that they have the weekend before going back to work. But, of course that doesn’t apply to those who work in all those stores having the after Christmas sales.
I find it odd, maybe even ironic. For almost 1,400 years the Jewish people had looked and waited for the promised Redeemer and Messiah. Yet, they knew, or should have known when He was coming. There are many scriptures in the Old Testament that speak to the birth of Christ, making both the “when” and the “where” fairly obvious to both the priests and the scholars. They, at least, should have known where, and approximately when, Christ would make His appearance. And then, when He finally arrived, many of God’s chosen people rejected Him.
I see many similarities in the society I live in.
Isn’t it interesting that it was rough, dirty, lowly shepherds that God selected to be the first to hear the news of the birth of their Lord and savior. And, the only ones who figured it out on their own, weren’t even Jews. They were Wise Men, or Magi, …from the East—who were likely of royal birth.
May I humbly suggest that we take the next 7-days to get reconnected to the real reason for this season and holiday. Not the sales. Not the elaborate decorations. Not the gifts we buy, or make for one another; or even the great food. Rather, can we take some time each day to think about, and maybe even thank God for the incredible plan that was put into motion with the birth of Jesus. There are many wonderful stories of individuals who played greater and lesser roles. Yet all were intertwined in the big story, …The Birth of Christ.
Jesus, the Christ, is the best gift ever given—and, this gift was given to the entire world, …forever.
First, I think of what it must have been like in heaven when God looked at His Son and said, “Well, son, I think it’s time. Time to send you to earth and begin the ‘Restoration and Redemption Plan’”.i
Jesus looked around. The Angels were in a state of surprise and shock. His Father was clearly in agony; and, at the same time, radiating pure love in a way Jesus had never seen before. He looked at everything He’d be losing when He went to the earth to be implanted in a single cell in the womb of a teenage virgin. He also looked forward in time and saw exactly what would transpire in about 34-earth years at a place called Golgotha; and that was too horrific to dwell on. Then He looked back to His Father and said, “I’m ready Father. Your will be done”. And it was.
Over a period of months God sent the angel Gabriel to earth to prepare some chosen people for what was about to happen. First to Zachariah, a priest. He was married to Elizabeth, a relative of Mary—who would become the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel told Zachariah that his wife would bear a child—which was something of a miracle in-and-of itself since Elizabeth was near 90 years old, and barren. Gabriel also said their child should be named John; and he (John) would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. Zachariah and Elizabeth went “all-in”.
Then in Elizabeth’s 6th month of pregnancy, Gabriel is sent to Mary. He tells Mary that even though she is a virgin, she will conceive and give birth to a son, and name Him Jesus. After asking several questions of Gabriel, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true”. Wow!
Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and Joseph was unhappy. Mary was pregnant, and he had not had sexual relations with her. He was in an untenable position. He loved Mary. He thought she loved him; yet, she had disgraced him and his family. Legally, he could have her stoned to death; or, he could quietly break the engagement—which would spare Mary’s life; but condemn her to a very difficult and degraded life. Gabriel shows up again, and tells Joseph not to break the engagement, that the child Mary carries is the son of God! And, Joseph takes Mary as his wife. They have no sexual relations until after the birth of Jesus.
Whoa! Imagine being told that you will have the responsibility of raising the Son of God?
In her 9th month of pregnancy Mary and Joseph are required to go to the town of Bethlehem, where Joseph was born. They must make the long and dangerous trip because of a Roman edict to conduct a census. To ignore it would be to invite death. They make the laborious (no pun intended) journey; and upon arrival, or very shortly after, Mary is in labor. Because of the census, the town is over-flowing. With no rooms available, they end-up in a stable. The son of God is born, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in the manger. Of course this particular stable had been cleaned, provided with light, running water, and made ready for the delivery of a baby with doctors standing by. NOT! Never-the-less, that’s how Jesus arrived on planet earth.
And yes, the aforementioned shepherds showed up to see this great thing the angels had told them of. And after seeing Jesus in the manger, they left and told everyone who would listen what the angels had told them. They had found, “…a Savior, who is Christii the Lord”.
Now, about the Wise Men (or Magi): We don’t know exactly when they showed up. It is evident that Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem for some period of time after Jesus’ birth. (It may have been (and I think likely) that it was between two and three years.iii
The Bible tells us that the Magi followed a star to Bethlehem. On their way they stopped in Jerusalem and made inquiries: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews”. Obviously, Herod the King, heard they were in town seeking the prophesied “King of the Jews” and decided to meet with the Magi. He told them, they should find this child in Bethlehem, and when they found Him, to bring back word so that he might go and worship Him also.
The star led the Wise Men on to Bethlehem and stopped over the very house where, “…the young child was”.iv After presenting their gifts, they were divinely warned in a dream not to return to Herod. So they took another way home.
As soon as they left an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to “Take the young child and His mother by night, and flee to Egypt…” He was told to stay there because Herod wanted to destroy Jesus. And, further, he should stay in Egypt until the angel returned to tell him it was safe to return. (After Herod’s death).
When Herod realized the Wise Men weren’t coming back he was exceedingly angry. So using the timetable for the appearance of the star the Wise men had followed, Herod ordered his soldiers to kill every child 2-years old and under in Bethlehem and all its districts. Nice guy, that Herod.
Well, Herod did die, and God sent an angel to tell Joseph that he should return to Israel with his wife and child. On the way, Joseph found-out that Herod’s son was ruler of Judea. Joseph was afraid to return to Bethlehem; and, being warned by God in a dream, Joseph diverted around Judea and went to Galilee There they set-up house keeping in the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew to adulthood.
Father God, In this country Satan has almost succeeded in eliminating Christ from Christmas. This is very troubling to many of us, while others who profess to be Christian seem to be oblivious to what is going on. Or, maybe they just feel powerless.
Father, we look at the story of the birth of Christ and see people just like us who played incredible roles in your name. And, I believe that is the difference. These people truly believed that with you anything was possible. And, you would never ask them to do anything that your weren’t willing to guide them through.
Father, I know nothing has changed on your side of the equation. It’s us who have let you down. I’d like to see a revival like the world, and especially this nation has never seen. I’d like to see this nation become the nation you once had envisioned it to be. Father, we can change. We can stand our ground. Restore our faith. Restore our trust in you. Use us, Father.
In Jesus name I pray,
i The material for this paragraph (and the next) is not found in the Bible. It is how I imagine it.
ii Jesus is His name. Christ is His title. The word Christ is the Greek word meaning Messiah.
iii My reasoning for more than two, but less than 3-years old, is that the Bible tells us that when the Wise men arrived, Joseph and his family were living in a house. Jesus was not referred to as a baby, but rather as a “child”. Herod would have had his “finger on the pulse’ of his kingdom. He was shrewd and competent ruler. He had likely heard about the birth of Jesus, but had no telling evidence. The Wise Men shared the time of the star’s appearance with Him. When he chose to kill all male children 2 and under, I presume that would mean, any male under three years old. Assuming that you are considered 2 until your 3rd birthday.
iv Matthew 2:9