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…
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.
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 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What more needs to be said of Jesus’ birth? What more can be said? God came down to us. He humbled Himself to be born in a manger. He left His kingdom in heaven to be among the animals in a stable. Then He grew up to die on a cross for the sins of the entire world.
It’s hard to even comprehend. How could this be? That God would condescend to our level and take on flesh so as to provide a way for salvation… that’s beyond anything our insufficient human minds can fathom. He didn’t have to do it. He didn’t have to save us. But He did, and He chose to do it.
He was not only the High Priest who would provide the perfect, ultimate sacrifice, He was also the sacrifice. He paid the ultimate price for humanity. But first, He came down as an infant. First, He was Mary’s baby boy, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. First, it was Christmas.
Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
After all of the prophesy, all of the build up, all of the preparation; the time came for Jesus to be born into the world as a child. The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became a helpless baby boy. He humbled Himself to the point of becoming a newborn infant to a poor teenage girl.
Though descended from the line of a king, He stepped out of eternity to become a servant. That baby who so desperately depended on His mother for life had created life from the very beginning. He, the Father, and the Spirit set it up so that at just the right time, He would enter into time and space and become one of us.
We may think today that we wish he’d have been born in our own time so that we could literally walk with Him as the disciples did, but that’s not how it was meant to be. The plan from the very beginning included that day, at that time, in that stable, to that mother, under that star. The inn? He was never going to be born in an inn. The trip to Bethlehem? He wasn’t to be born in Nazareth. That wasn’t the plan. He came at just the right time. And we should thank God that He did.
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.