Yesterday, I wrote about the journey to Bethlehem – how it would have been on that first eve.
But, that was not all. Today, I tell you about the first “Christmas.”
Enjoy. This is a long post, but it’s worth the read.
Arrival in Bethlehem brought worry and upset: there was no room for them to stay at the hotel. There was only space in the stable – the animal house for travellers’ donkeys and horses.
Away in the manger, no crib for a bed.
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head…
Something amazing happened that night.
Jesus was born that night, and unlike many of us, there was no bed for him. They used an animal feeding box filled with the dry grass the animals ate.
Christmas cards and pictures today make it all seem very nice. In truth, it must have been dirty and frightening for a young couple, far from their home and families. Possibly the birth was premature after the stress of the journey.
This was a very poor place for Jesus to start his life on earth.
In a little town of Bethlehem, the saviour of the earth was born. He didn’t descend from the skies in purple robes, a crown on His head and a host of angels.
He did not drop off the cloud armed with swords and spears with a wicked grin on his face.
He was born. In a stable.
The Israelites thought he would deliver them from the physical oppression of the Romans. Jesus gives more. LIFE – He came to give the whole world peace with their God.
Sadly, many didn’t understand.
Christians believe that it was exactly God’s plan that things happened this way. They say that it shows that Jesus came as a humble, poor person and not as a strong, rich king.
Five hundred years before, the prophet Micah had said,
“But you Bethlehem, though you are small, out of you will come for me, one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The prophet Isaiah had written,
“A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counsellor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace…
He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time.”
These are only two of many prophetic words that told of the birth and life of Jesus, written hundreds of years before His birth.
At that time, sheep farmers were seen by other people as low and of no value. Yet it was to these shepherds that the birth of Jesus was first announced in an amazing dramatic way: “That night there were some men looking after sheep in the fields nearby. Suddenly they saw a great light. It was an angel, who said,
‘Don’t be afraid. I have good news for you, and for all people. Someone great has been born today. He is Christ, the great King you have been waiting for. He will save you from all that is wrong and evil. You will find him dressed in baby clothes, lying on a bed of dry grass.'”
After Jesus was born, wise men came to look for Him, from an area which is now in either Iran or Saudi Arabia. Although they are often called the “Three Kings”, the Bible does not say how many there were, or that they were kings. Three is only a guess because they brought with them three gifts.
They were certainly men of learning – probably today we would call them philosophers or scientists. They had seen an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a special king. (The star they saw was probably a exploding “supernova” and is known from astronomical records.) They followed the direction of the star and eventually found the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were staying.
To bring honour to the child, they brought rich gifts: gold, frankincense (a resin which burns with a beautiful smell), and myrrh (plant oil with a very strong sweet smell). These gifts tell us in pictures three key things about Jesus:
Gold: a gift fit for a King
Frankincense: burnt in worship of God
Myrrh: a sign of mortal human-ness – it was used to bury the dead
After Jesus was born, a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” When word of their inquiry got to Herod, king of that territory, he was terrified–and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well.
He lost no time, but gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and found out where the Messiah was supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly.
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child.
They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”
Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.)
“But how did it end?”
Christmas is about Christ, nothing else.
Jesus came to earth, and then we can’t stop talking about him. Whether you love him, hate him or are indifferent, you can’t stop thinking about Him. No other person has had such an influence on human lives as Jesus.
He was born. To die.
We celebrate Jesus Christ who laid aside His majesty in heaven, gave up everything for us, suffered in the hands of those He created. He took all our guilt and shame, when he died and rose again. Now today He reigns and is over heaven and earth exalted. Because He did all what God asked him to do, we celebrate Him.
A sad story took place to produce the joyful glory we celebrate at Christmas. So dark was the time when He bore the sins of all man – mine and yours – to produce the brightness of God in us.
Because the work of Christ on the cross is perfected in my life, I can celebrate Christmas. I’m saved, so I can appreciate what He has done for me. I can use this season to deepen my walk with him.
But if you have not come to acknowledge Christ’s sacrifice, Christmas will not make much sense to you. You will just eat, be filled and tag along with those who are celebrating. Take a moment to think: Why should I celebrate Christmas? If Christ’s work is not perfected in my life, it’s no use celebrating.
You can as well buy a cat or something.
But I tell you, it’ll be the greatest decision of your life to allow the work of Christ be perfected in you. The world is lost in sin and is fast spiraling into doom and all in it. Religion does not save. Only Christ does. He rescues us from the evil one and secures our place in eternity with God. He stretches out his hands to you this Christmas.
The Bible says He came back to life again, and millions say they know Him today as a saviour, friend and helper in their lives.
Rather than toss out this material, you can find out more about Him. Is He who He claimed to be? Can He help us in our lives today?
You have nothing to lose by just finding out!
Even if you do not celebrate Christmas, this is time to, at least, stop and think about these important questions.
From me, it’s Merry Christmas,