Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Did they know? Did the people sleeping in Bethlehem that night know that the baby being born in the stable was their King? Did the people staying in that inn where there was no room know that they were in the vicinity of the Savior?
Chances are none of them knew what was going on that night. The angels proclaimed their message to the shepherds we’re told, but no one else seems to receive this news. The shepherds of course immediately go to see the newborn, but it’s probably safe to assume that there were no other visitors that night. If only they knew. He was right in their midst.
But don’t we miss Him too? Jesus isn’t being born in a manger in our town, but He is evident around us and we sometimes still don’t seem to notice. He’s holding all things together (Colossians 1:17), not letting a single grain of sand fall out of place, and yet we go for sometimes long periods of time without even giving Him a second thought. Maybe the shepherds were chosen to receive the good news because they would listen and respond…
Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Why Jesus? What does it mean to name the child Jesus? Of all the things the Savior of the world could have been named…Jesus…
The Hebrew name from which Jesus derived is Yeshua, or as we would know it, Joshua. Yes, Jesus was a popular name and the Messiah was one of many. This is even more puzzling as to why He would be given a name that didn’t stand out, that is until you realize what the name means in the original language. Yeshua means “salvation”, and this should be no surprise in light of Matthew 1:21. The child promised to Mary was to be named salvation because He would save His people from their sins. Fitting.
But consider the other Joshua’s of the Bible. Joshua, son of Nun was the leader who delivered the people of Israel into the promised land. He won many military campaigns in the land of Canaan and was considered a godly man. He was, for all intents and purposes, a savior for God’s people. Joshua was salvation. Maybe not as glorious in battle, but also used by God, was the high priest of the book of Ezra. Jeshua helped to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem after God’s people returned from exile to their home land. He rebuilt the temple to reconnect the people with God. He made a way for them to seek after God.
And Jesus of Nazareth is the name above all names. The name bestowed upon Him is the one at which every knee will bow, on heaven and on earth, and under the earth. It’s HIS name at which demons tremble and it’s HIS name that every tongue will confess. He, Jesus Christ, is Lord of all. He is salvation.
Luke 2:8-10 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Why do you suppose the angels of the Lord would visit shepherds to deliver the message of the Savior’s birth? Of all the people who could have received that special message, God singled out shepherds who were out in the fields with their sheep. Why would He do this?
Shepherds were two things during the time of Christ’s birth: they were lowly people who weren’t very well respected, and they were fairly common. We read of several significant shepherds in the Bible (Moses and David among others), and Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. This was definitely a thematic element of the story.
The common nature of the shepherds who were out in those fields tells us that God wanted everyone, even the lowest, most ignored people, to hear the Good News. He could have sent His angels to the King or the Governor, but He chose the common man. The commonest of the common even. The Savior came, not just for the respected and the religious (notice the angels didn’t visit the temple with their news), but for the any-man.
No matter who you are, the Good News of Jesus is for you. No matter how insignificant you are, He notices you and cares for you enough to pay the price for your sins so that you can have a relationship with God.
John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Was the world prepared for what it was going to encounter that first Christmas? For so long the world had been in darkness. Even the religion of those chosen by God had been corrupted into something other than what God had commissioned. John the Baptist was working to prepare people to turn their hearts back toward God. But did he even know what was to come?
In all that darkness, there was about to be light. Not just any light, but the true light, which enlightens everyone. Jesus was that light. The problem is, not everyone likes to be enlightened. Those who live in darkness often prefer the darkness and resent the light. They’d rather not have light shed on their sinful behavior and their sinful hearts. Jesus would shed that light and people hated Him for it.
The child born on that day in Bethlehem would be the One to conquer sin and darkness once and for all. Where His light is shone, there can no longer be darkness. He could have entered the world on a cloud, in a lightning bolt, or in a single flash of light, but He came as a baby. A precious innocent baby was born that day, and He would soon let His light shine. The true light.
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.
Matthew 2:11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Long before Jesus was born, there was a group of people who studied the prophesies of the coming Messiah, hoping that one day they would be among those who would crown Him as king. The Magi were men of the east who had been watching for the Promised One for many years, each generation passing along the information to the next. Imagine being among those who finally got to see the Christ face to face. Imagine how that would make you feel. It would make you want to worship.
And so the wise men, as we call them, set out to find the child, for that very purpose. They longed to see Him and worship Him, bringing gifts with great significance. Because He was a King, they brought Him gold, because He was the great Healer, they brought Him frankincense, and because He would die for the sins of mankind, they brought Him myrrh. These were thoughtful gifts, they showed what the Magi thought of Jesus. They were not arbitrary.
So what will you bring before the King to lay down at His feet? What will you offer Him in worship?
Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The angels, the shepherds, the wise men, all thought to do the same thing at the birth of the Savior. They worshipped Him. This is the proper response to being in the presence of God.
Too often we let Christmas blow right by us without a second thought to the significance of the event we are celebrating. This is more than just the birth of a baby, this is God come down to earth for the sake of mankind. He showed up among us as a little baby and yet that baby was so worthy of praise and honor and glory and worship. What must it have been like to be there when God himself entered into time and space? It had to be overwhelming.
Throughout the Bible, it seems that whenever someone encounters God and they’re greatly overwhelmed by that, their natural response is to bow down in worship. It seems that this is the expectation. Glory of God equals worship of man. So this Christmas, slow down and worship. Slow down and embrace the overwhelming notion that God came to us that night in Bethlehem. Put yourself in that scenario and imagine what it must have felt like. And worship Him.