Luke 1:16-17 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Before there was Jesus, there was John the Baptist. There had to be. If Jesus had come into the world apart from the way being prepared for Him, the mission would have been compromised. The people were not ready for the Messiah, they needed someone to prepare them. John was that someone.
Long before John’s birth, there was a prophesy of the one who would come in the power of Elijah to prepare the hearts of the people to turn back to God (Malachi 4:6). John’s one role was to make the way for the Promised One, and then it was his time to decrease so that the Savior could increase (John 3:30). Because of the prophesies, John’s parents would have understood what the angel’s revelation to them meant. Their son would be the last prophet before the coming of the Christ.
In God’s sovereignty it just so happens that John and Jesus were relatives. The man who would declare Jesus the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was His own kin. The baptizer who would watch as the Father and the Holy Spirit gave testimony about Jesus (Matthew 3:16,17) had affection for Him as family. Before Jesus could come, John had to come and get things ready for Him.
Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
Why Mary? This is a question that some think is important while others brush it off as not important at all. Regardless of where you stand on that, Mary was part of a grand story and it was for a reason.
God is sovereign over all things and He provides a way for His will to be carried out. Long before John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Messiah, God was getting things in order. Mary was chosen specifically by God. There is no coincidence in regards to her being the one who would carry the Christ child in her womb. Mary was descended from the right line of Jews to fulfill the prophesies of old. Not only her, but Joseph as well.
Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He was to be born unto a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14). He was to live a life that could only have happened exactly as it did if Mary was His mother. Being engaged to Joseph meant that Mary had to make a journey to Bethlehem in Judea for a census at the time of Jesus’ birth. This was God’s provision for the prophesies to be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. Mary was chosen for many reasons, but it had to be her. It had to be her that bore the Son of God into the world.
Malachi 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The story of Jesus does not begin with His birth in Bethlehem. The entire Old Testament is the story of a people who were to be the heritage from which the Messiah descended. Their customs, the events of their lives, everything was all part of the greater story of Jesus. He didn’t just appear out of nowhere, the way was prepared for Him.
Hundreds of years before that night in Bethlehem under the star, God was already making it known through His prophet Malachi that He would send Elijah to prepare the people for their Messiah. They were not only expecting the Promised Messiah, but also His forerunner, who it so turns out was John the Baptist.
Before we can really understand the significance of the Christmas story, the ministry of Jesus, the death, burial, and resurrection – we have to understand that Jesus came from a real history of real people with real stories. His birth was foretold and expected, but it was also part of a larger narrative. To understand Jesus we must understand His people. Christmas is the climax of a promise given by God to His people, a promise to send someone to save them. He sent Himself.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Why is it so important that a virgin be the one to become pregnant with Jesus? Since the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned and introduced a corrupt nature into all of mankind, we’ve been tainted. We can’t be good no matter how hard we try because we have that sinful nature.
Some have tried to convince us that a virgin birth was necessary in order for Jesus to be without a sinful nature. The logic is that the sinful nature must be passed down from generation to generation from the father. This may be the case, but a mother is also a sinful human being and therefore capable of passing down her sinful nature to her offspring.
Mary was a real person with a real human body and within that body was the Christ child. No other person ever had such a physical connection with Jesus than did His birth mother. How she became pregnant with the Son of God is where the importance of her virginity becomes important. Mary conceived without the help of a man. She was impregnated supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. Because He did this work in her to bring about the Christ’s birth into the world, there was no earthly explanation for her pregnancy. The supernatural circumstances of her pregnancy make it the only time in the history of humankind for a baby to be born with no earthly father involved. This was the sign promised in Isaiah, hundreds of years before.
Luke 2:47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Even at a very young age, Jesus had a way about Him that amazed those with whom He had interactions. There was just something about Him. One can only guess what it would have been like to live around Him when He was only a child, but the Word tells us that even back then He was something else.
As Jesus visited the temple as a child, He asked questions of the experts and discussed heavy theological matters with them. The people in that temple probably would have been impressed with an adult that had the knowledge and wisdom that Jesus displayed, but for it to be coming from a child… They’d never seen such a thing! There they were discussing God with God face-to-face, and they didn’t even know it.
To experience Jesus is to be amazed by Him. It’s impossible to encounter Him and keep going along without any change, without even blinking. It’s impossible. To be with Jesus elicits awe and amazement. It makes one want to worship Him, not just carry on as usual. He’s the manifestation of God, the Lord’s revelation of Himself to man. How can we not be amazed when we see Him?
Luke 2:30-31 for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
What must it have been like to wait for years and years with the promise of a Messiah to come, never knowing quite when He would arrive? Oh the faith of Simeon, to keep believing even into old age that God would keep His promise. Simeon is a good example of faith rewarded. He waited and he waited for the Promised One and then a day came when God allowed him to see Him with his own eyes. What a day that must have been for Simeon.
We know that he rejoiced and gave praise to God over the joyous occasion, but he also revealed that at this moment his life was complete. He had been promised that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had been born and there He was in front of Simeon, being presented at the temple. Simeon could die in peace. Are you so content with encountering Christ that you’d say you can die in peace right now because you’ve seen Him?
It’s a great occasion any time we get a taste of the Lord’s goodness. His salvation is a free gift that we can never earn and it comes only from Jesus Christ, and to experience this is something to sing about, to make a fuss over. But do we look at this as enough? Is your life complete now that you’ve seen the Lord’s salvation? For Simeon it was enough. There was nothing more that the world had to offer him that could even come close to meeting Jesus face to face. Somehow for us there is still a lot competing for our affections in this world, but the reality is that Jesus is enough and we should be content with Him. He’s all that we need.
Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Why does the Bible point out that Mary gave birth to her “firstborn son”? The Bible minces no words, says nothing in vain. Everything has meaning. So why is this phrasing included in the story of Jesus’ birth? We already know from the previous chapter that Mary was to give birth to the Savior though she had never “known” a man. The Holy Spirit was to work in her to conceive the child. Knowing that, we’d know that this was her firstborn. So why mention it?
There are several reasons that this is significant wording. One is that King Herod had heard about this child who was to be born “King of the Jews”. Because he was a paranoid man (He actually killed his own sons because he considered them a threat to his throne), he had all of the firstborn sons of the Jewish people killed. Everyone that he thought could be this “king” was slaughtered. Jesus was a firstborn son, but He escaped the infanticide.
Another significant reason to mention that Jesus was the firstborn is that this is a title given to Him as the Son of God. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). Now in this case, the word doesn’t actually point to birth order but rather ranking or stature, but we see a picture painted here.
Maybe not lastly, but the last we’ll look at, is the idea that God always required the firstborn animal to be offered as a sacrifice in the Old Testament. The firstborn all belonged to God (Numbers 3:13). Jesus was HIS firstborn, and He offered Him as a sacrifice once and for all. That is why it means something that Jesus was the firstborn in this verse.
Micah 5:2 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.
There were possibly hundreds of prophecies fulfilled in the birth of Jesus (depends on what scholar you ask). Some who oppose the idea of Jesus being the Son of God or the Messiah refute the prophecies by saying that Jesus knew of them and decided to live His life in a way that would make it seem that they had been fulfilled. But there are some (like the virgin birth!) that Jesus could not have had a hand in when it comes to choosing. How could an unborn child make sure that He was born under a star in the city of David, just like the prophet had foretold?
No, unless that baby was in fact God, there is no way He could have made that happen. Only the Creator who existed from eternity past could orchestrate such a thing. Only the designer of time and space could place Himself into history at just the right time to fulfill every one of those prophecies. Jesus was capable of being born in Bethlehem because He was involved in the planning of such an event.
No matter where it had been that He chose, it would have been part of a sovereign design for the redemption of God’s people. There is no other who has the power to save. That baby born in Bethlehem to a virgin mother and a noble adoptive father would grow in wisdom and in stature, live a sinless life, and die for the sins of the world. He was born in a town of little repute in a stable and died on a hill amongst thieves.
Matthew 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Who was Joseph and why is it important? We so often talk about Mary because she is the virgin mother who was chosen by God to bear the Savior. It was Mary who conceived by the Holy Spirit. But Joseph was chosen by God to be part of this story as well.
Joseph was a descendent of David, a requirement for the prophesy of the Messiah to come true. He was the one who was from Bethlehem in Judea, where the Savior was to be born. It was Joseph who had to return there for the census. But why did he bring Mary along with him? He wasn’t required to. Surely one of Mary’s relatives could have cared for her while Joseph made the journey to his hometown. But word had gotten out about this “virgin” who had conceived a child. The pressure was put on Joseph to divorce her, or worse, stone her to death. Joseph likely brought her along to protect her and the child.
But why would he do this? We learn from the Bible that Joseph was a just man. And why should that surprise us? This was to be the man who would play the role of father to the Son of God while he was growing up. Why would God have picked anyone short of a just man who had integrity and character? Mary was chosen with good reason, and so was Joseph. God provided the perfect settings for Jesus to come into the world.
Matthew 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
It’s no mistake and no coincidence that Matthew chose to begin his Gospel account with the lineage of Jesus. While it may seem insignificant and we may choose to skip past this part of Scripture, every bit of it is intentional. Jesus did not appear out of nowhere. He was born to a specific human mother who was selected personally by God. His earthly father was a man who came from a line of Jews that stretched all the way back to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel.
It was Abraham who first received a promise from God in the form of a covenant, David with whom God renewed His covenant, and the post-exilic Jews who were told of the Messiah’s coming. Each and every person in the history of Jesus’ genealogy is important as each of them has their own story. Just as you and I are the product of our family line, so too is Jesus the product of His. With the exception, of course, that He’s God.
Matthew’s inclusion of the genealogy shows the importance of the Old Testament to the New. The story of Israel is the story of Jesus. Those people who came before Him matter. God ordained that Jesus be born into a particular family, to a particular mother. But this was not the beginning of Jesus, only the beginning of His mission on earth. Jesus existed long before His birth on Christmas…