The long silence finally broken:
For four hundred years no prophet has arisen in Israel. There was no angelic visitation. The Israelites came under the dominion of the Persians followed by the Grecians, the Syrians, the Maccabees and then the Romans. Suddenly, after four centuries of silence, a voice was heard— the voice John the Baptist in the wilderness Judea, preparing the way for the Lord and urging people to repent. The “silent years” between the Old and the New Testament was the prelude that would herald in the most wondrous event in the history of mankind– The Incarnation. The eternal son of God took on flesh and became human without diminishing his divine nature.
The angelic announcements:
The scene unfolds with the announcement of the birth of the Saviour to Mary. An angel declared to Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will give birth to the holy one who will be called the Son of God. In Luke 2:8-14 we learned that as shepherds were keeping watch over their flock, first a single angel appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). This angelic pronouncement is a bold proclamation of the Gospel at the very hour of the birth of Jesus. The time has come for the fulfillment of the prophetic expectation of Messiah’s coming. Next many angels appeared and sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” With a heightened sense of excitement and determination, the shepherds rushed off to the baby’s side.
The unspeakable gift:
Christmas is the story of God’s love for mankind all over the world. God loves us so much that he gave us his only son through whom we have the hope of life eternal. Christmas is the story of the restoration of the broken relationship between man and God. God loves us. He always has. In Christ he reaches out to us. Christmas is the story of the King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, giving himself to you and to me. The Bible calls him, “the unspeakable gift.”
God is the most humble being:
God is the most humble being one will ever know. He is the Almighty God but he humbled himself to become a human being. He left his heavenly abode and came down to earth. He left his adoring angels to live in a world filled with jealousy, suspicion and hatred. He left his royal crown for a crown of thorns. He gave up his divine throne to take our place on the cross. Christmas is the account of God humbling himself and reaching down to man because they cannot reach up to where he is.
The only way out of sin and death:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16 & 17).
Only Jesus can save us from sin, condemnation and death. Only in him can we find eternal life. God’s purpose toward humankind is positive; it is an attitude of love. He is not seeking an excuse to condemn human beings but is rather endeavoring to save them. His purpose in sending Jesus into the world was to show his love and to draw people to himself.
Immanuel – God with us:
Isaiah 7:14 is a familiar prophecy that is quoted in Matthew. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is the evidence that God is with us. People of every race, culture and nation are trying to find God and discover the meaning of their lives. But God is not hiding. He is not distant. He has drawn close to us through Jesus Christ.
A Messianic prophecy fulfilled:
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, God inspired the prophet Micah to name the very place where Jesus would make his entry into the world. Said the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”.
Mary and Joseph lived in Galilee in the village of Nazareth. Augustus Caesar passed a decree and there was to be a census. So they came for the census. In most provinces the people registered in the city where they lived. But the tribal descent was so esteemed by the Jews that the Romans made a concession and ordered them to go to the place of their birth to register their names. Though Mary and Joseph lived in Galilee, both were of the royal family of David. As Bethlehem was the city of David, it was there that they had to go. Incidentally, this form of registration was also adopted in Egypt and Gaul.
Herod delayed the census:
God works in mysterious ways. Augustus Caesar passed the royal order three years ago. But Herod the Great did not carry out the order immediately for fear of displeasing the Jews. Unknown to him, unknown to anyone, he carried out the order only when the time for Mary to give birth arrived. Was this another coincidence? Certainly not!
The Inn of Bethlehem:
Traveling gently, Mary and Joseph came to an inn – a place of lodging. Because so many had come for the census there was no room left. What kind of an inn it was we do not know. Bethlehem was no tourist center so the inn probably left a lot to be desired. We aren’t told of even there being an innkeeper, but someone must have turned them away. Since that night when Jesus was born, centuries have rolled by and Bethlehem has changed greatly. The inn is no longer there, but upon the spot stood the oldest Christian church in the world… the Church of Nativity. At the east end of the church is a cave illuminated by fifty lamps suspended from the roof and on its marble floor is a Silver Star (the Star of Bethlehem). There, or somewhere very near it, Jesus was born. On the other side lies the rock-cut manger upon which Jesus was laid upon the dry straws.
But how can we be sure of the place where Jesus was born? Notice that the Bible account speaks of “the inn of Bethlehem”, indicating that there was only one in the town. Many of the first Christians would know “the inn of Bethlehem”, for it must have continued in use for years after Jesus. From the descendants of these Christians, the Empress Helena, mother of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great, learned of the spot and made it into a little sanctuary. Later, the great Emperor himself raised a beautiful church over it to keep forever in memory the place of the Incarnation.
The tradition of the Three Wise Men:
We don’t know how many wise men came to worship Jesus because the Bible does not mention it. According to tradition the Magi, popularly referred as the Three Wise Men from the East were Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar. The three gifts led to a widespread assumption that there were three of them. In the Western Christian church they are commonly known as: Melchior, a Babylonian scholar, Caspar, a Persian scholar and Balthazar, an Arab scholar. Tradition also referred the Magi as Kings from the East. Bible historian Chuck Missler mentions an Armenian tradition identifying the Magi as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia and Gasper of India.
The Magi or the wise men from the east came looking for the baby Jesus. When they finally found him they bowed down and to worshiped Him. Then they opened their precious treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.
Who are the wise men today?
The wise men today are those who seek God with their whole being. They are those who worship God with reverence and in truth and spirit. They are those who give their best to God with love and with willing and grateful hearts.
Jesus “the Bread of Life” is born in “the House of Bread” (Bethlehem)! Our Savior is born! Rejoice!
Wishing you all a joyful holy Christmas season. I hope to be back on Faith Leaf in the coming New Year. Stay blessed in Jesus Christ our Rock and our Redeemer.