[Thanks be to God for His incredible gift!]
It was God’s plan from the very beginning to send His Son, Jesus, into the world (1 Peter 1:20-21) In fact, His rule was proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah about 700 hundred years before His birth. (Isaiah 11:1-9)
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
So an angel named Gabriel was sent to speak to a young lady named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. (King David ruled Israel for 40 years.) Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)
As any of us would be, Mary was deeply troubled by this, so she was trying to understand what the angel meant. The angel told her not to be afraid and reassured her that she’d found favor with God. Gabriel also informed Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a son who she would name Jesus. (Luke 1:26-31) Next the angel proceeded to explain this gift:
“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end! Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God.” –Luke 1:32-35
Joseph, a Good Man
Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary. Being that Joseph was a good man, when he found out that Mary was pregnant, he didn’t want to disgrace her in public, so Joseph planned to divorce her secretly. While he thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the baby in her was from the Holy Spirit. (The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. (John 14:16-17)
Joseph was also informed that Mary would give birth to a son, and that He would be called Jesus as He would save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:18-20) The name Jesus, which is derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, means “to deliver or rescue.”
“All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name Him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named Him Jesus.” –Matthew 1:22-25
In the Town of David
While Mary was expecting, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This meant that everyone had to go to their own town to register, so both Joseph and Mary made the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the town of David. There, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. Because there was no room at the inn her baby was born in a stable. Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and placed Him in a food trough. (Luke 2:1-7)
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” –Luke 2:8-14
When the angels departed, the Shepherds decided to make their way to Bethlehem to witness what the Lord told them had occurred. When they arrived, they found Mary and Joseph in the stable. After seeing the baby, they spread the news about what they’d been told about this child, and all who heard the story were amazed. (Luke 2:15-18 )
Wise Men From the East
After Jesus was born, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the baby Who was born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
How the Wise Men knew to follow Bethlehem’s star to Jerusalem, isn’t spelled out clearly in Scripture, however, we may have some clues throughout Scripture. For starters, we know that God warns the the Wise Men through a dream not to go back to Herod. (Matthew 2:7-12)
Creationtoday.org takes things a little further, suggesting that the the Wise Men may have been connected to King David who was known to have the gift of interpreting dreams himself. Furthermore, they suggest that the star was prophesied by Balaam in Numbers 24:17. The full article can be found here.
King Herod, who was reported to be a tyrannical leader, likely didn’t appreciate that Jesus was being called the king of the Jews, as he himself carried this title as King of Judea. Later in Scripture we learn more about King Herod’s character when Jesus refers to him as “that fox.” (Luke 13:31-35)
So King Herod held a secret meeting with the Wise Men. He wanted to find out where Jesus was born. He claimed that He wanted to go worship the child, so He told the Wise Men to come tell him where they had found the child.
After their meeting with the king, the Wise Men followed the star that would lead them to the the new born King. They bowed down before Him and worshiped Him, then they opened the gifts that they’d brought for their Messiah, giving Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. God had warned them in a dream not to go back to King Herod, so they returned to their own country via a different route. (Matthew 2:7-12)
God’s Love Came Down
How can it be? God’s own Son, sent to save the world, was born in a filthy stable, then placed in a feeding trough. These images speak volumes to me of my Savior’s love. He has always been willing to humble Himself, enduring anything for the ones He loves. Symbolically, a feeding trough makes sense; it can be used to hold both food and water.
He Fed the Hungry
Jesus was presented to the world as the bread of life. (John 6:35) He not only fed the hungry, both literally and spiritually, He also encouraged those who were thirsty to come to Him to never thirst again. This is spiritual thirst, and Jesus offers us this gift through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also referred to as Living Water as those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior will metaphorically have rivers of water flowing from their hearts. (John 7:38-39) What this means is that God works through those who willingly receive Him, so His Spirit is given to, and poured out through, those who belong to Him. We have God’s power within us to refresh others, by comforting and teaching, as well as, many other gifts that come through the Spirit of God.
A Blood Thirsty World
Sadly, Jesus wasn’t met with the reception He rightly deserved. Instead, King Herod wanted this King of the Jews dead. He wouldn’t be the only one who’d desire Jesus out of the picture. Even today there are those who wish Christ’s followers dead, and many will continue to be persecuted, rejected and even put to death for Christ’s sake.
Therefore, when Herod learned that the Wise Men had tricked him, he ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area, two years old or younger, to be killed. However, Joseph was well aware of this as an Angel had warned Him to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt and stay there until King Herod died. (Matthew 2:16)
God in the Flesh
If Bethlehem had understood who Jesus truly was, would things have been any different? If they had known that this holy child, God in the flesh, came to be the sacrifice to redeem mankind, would anyone have surrendered their room to this rightly King?
Mary wasn’t the only one who was highly favored by God. God looks at all who accept His gift (His Son) with this same love and adoration. It goes both ways, to know Jesus is to love Him, and to love Him means that we do as He asks–that is, loving Him and loving others as He first loved us.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” –2 Corinthians 9:15