As we gear up for Christmas, let’s cast our minds back to where it all began. Over a year before the scene in the stable, God in His heavenly throne room summoned an angel and gave him a special assignment.
Advent is here. Christmas is just around the corner. However, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, there is an aspect of the Christmas story we tend to overlook or underemphasize. While flipping through the pages of Luke one and two and Matthew chapter one, we forget the lengthy gap that’s represented in the page that reads “The New Testament.” For us, the span between the Old Testament and New is merely a couple of pages, but for the Israelites it was 400 years.
“What wonder still that Anna filled with praise should bless the Lord;
Her aging eyes now looking on the Savior of the world.
For night and day her prayers had filled the temple of our God.
Her heart could tell His saving hand within this gift of love.”
~“How Suddenly a Baby Cries” by Keith & Kristyn Getty
While Simeon was looking and watching expectantly for the consolation of Israel, another seasoned individual was also seeking God’s redemption of His people.
The festivities are over, the presents have been opened, the decorations are starting to come down, merchandise is over half off, and Christmas seems officially over. However, is Christmas Day really the end of everything, the pinnacle moment, grand finale? Or is Christmas Day truly the beginning?
Sweet baby Jesus! You left your heavenly dwelling of glory to be born among the lowly and despised of the earth, in a cattle stall among people who had no room for You. From a throne of splendor to a straw filled manger, You humbled Yourself and be came like one of us in our very weakest and vulnerable state. You came as a newborn baby, fully reliant upon an imperfect, inexperienced mother and father. And while shepherds paid their respects, and wise men came to worship, the very people You came to save largely rejected and ignored You. Their hearts and their doors stated “No room in the inn.” And now, two thousand years later, many people still have signs hanging on the door frames of their homes and hearts declaring, “No room in the inn!” But may we be like the shepherds of old who left their flocks by night and came to your bedside to worship. Or may we be like the wise men from a far who traveled many miles in search of the King of Kings. And may our Christmas prayer this year be this:
As we continue our “God Came Down” series, the next characters from the Nativity story that we will look at are the Magi or wise men. How often we see these special guests depicted as three elegantly dressed men bearing rich gifts and kneeling before or hovering over an idyllic manger scene! Now while I hate to burst your bubble or perfect picture, the truth of the matter is that the wise men were nowhere near the manger scene for the birth of Jesus. In fact, we don’t even know if there were three who visited the infant Jesus! There could have been five or ten for all we know! Nevertheless, while no one knows the details on their identity, we can still learn some very valuable lessons from these semi-obscure worshipers of the Christ Child.
"How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me"
~"How Many Kings" by Downhere
As we near the celebration of Christ’s birth our journey through the Christmas story continues, the next characters that come to mind are the good citizens of Bethlehem and the shepherds living out in the fields nearby. Were they ready for the strike of fame that was about to descend on their small town? Did they recognize the Christ child for who He is—the promised Messiah? And what were the thoughts of the shepherds as they witnessed the angelic chorus?
In our culture dominated by media and popular opinion, celebrities and royalty are lifted up and idolized. I remember a few years ago when every magazine was covering the wedding of William and Kate—the royal couple of England. Our world is obsessed with individuals and couples of fame and fortune, super stars and royals; however, there was one royal couple that the world completely missed. They were not pictured on the front page of The Bethlehem Times nor interviewed on national news; they were not welcomed with a parade or put up in a five star hotel; instead, they were turned out of the only inn available and sent to live in a dirty, cold, smelly, stable. They were royal not by right of birth nor surge of fame and popularity, but because of whom they raised—the King of kings.
Can you guess the couple I am referring to?
How apt were these words of Elizabeth! Mary, indeed, was blessed. She was chosen to be the mother of Israel’s promised Messiah! While just a humble peasant girl with no formal education, Mary was asked to do the impossible—carry and deliver the Son of God while yet a virgin—and as we saw last week, she did not question the Lord’s calling but obeyed and was honored to be called “mother” by the Creator of the world. So yes, blessed is she who believed the word of the Lord!
Creator became part of His creation.
Eternal one stepped into time.
God became man.
Immanuel, God with us.
The gravity of sacrifice displayed in the incarnation is beyond our finite comprehension. It’s like ants trying to follow computer coding; it’s impossible. However, for us to truly understand the significance and meaning of Christmas, we must ponder and try to grasp what God did so many years ago.
In the land of ancient Israel, after four hundred years of silence, God re-enters history in a big way. He sent an angel to visit two people, a man serving in the Holy of Holies and a teenage girl in Nazareth. Who was this man and girl, and of what importance do they have in the story of Christmas?
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