1997-12-20 - The Christmas Story
The first version of the Christmas story appears in the language of the Lord to the serpent in the garden of Eden when he beguiled Eve to disobey God. Her rebellion ( though done in ignorance) brought sin into the world and sin brought death, sickness and all the ruin and wreckage we see all over the world. The words announcing the coming of the Messiah into the world to be the Redeemer of mankind are as follows
Genesis 3:14-15 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel
Almost every teacher I know ( including yours truly) will tell you the expression "the seed of the woman" is a veiled reference to the Messiah who according to Isaiah 7:14 was to be conceived miraculously and born of a virgin. Throughout the genealogical tables of the Old Testament and likewise in the historical sections the progeny( seed) is always reckoned after the male. But in this first announcement the messiah is spoken of as being the progeny of the woman-- a most remarkable and revealing prediction. This prophecy becomes very luminous in the light of such a passage as:
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
A careful study of the context in which this promise appears shows that the prophet was speaking of a miracle which the Lord would perform for the house of David. Ahaz refused to request the Lord to perform a miracle for the strengthening of his faith. Then, Isaiah, turning from the sarcastic little king looked out into the future and declared that a virgin should conceive and bear a son and should call his name Immanuel. This promise means exactly what it says. It is a prediction of the miraculous conception in the virgin birth of the God-man, who is none other than the Messiah of Israel the redeemer of the world.
Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah spoke of His birth place, the place in which he would make his entrance into the world. Hear him
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
According to this prophecy he … whose goings forths are from of old from everlasting - is to enter the world by being born in Bethlehem of Judea the city of David. The old testament saints were on the tip toes of expectation looking forward to the coming of Messiah. As to when he would make his advent into the world, they knew nothing until the prophet Daniel gave his revelation. In chapter nine he declared that the cutting of Messiah would be four hundred and eighty three years ( sixty nine weeks or sevens of years) from the issuing of the decree to restore Jerusalem until Messiah would be cut off and have nothing. If the redeemer was to be executed at the end of 483 years, he of necessity would have to be born , grow up and perform his work before being cut off. After this message was delivered, the people who believed in the message, of the prophet could count the years as they pass by and could have an approximate idea as to when the redeemer would be born into the world. That there were those at the time of the fulfilling of the predictions who had faith in the prophecy (and who were interpreting it sanely and soundly) and who were looking for his appearance is seen from the second chapter of Luke. One of those of the small minority who were looking for the Messiah was Simeon.
Luke 2 :25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
Another of the small group of prophetic students was the prophetess Anna
Luke 2:38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
The Virgin Mary who became the mother of our Lord, according to the promise made to her by the angel Gabriel as we see in Luke Chapter 2, lived in Nazareth. Naturally under those conditions her child will be born in the place where she was living at the time. People in Israel at that time did not move around as we do today. Hence the normal thing was for the child to be born in Nazareth, but God had fortold that the Messiah should be born in Bethlehem. How could this be? God moves in His mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Prior to this time he had providentially over-ruled in the life of Augustus Caesar and caused him to issue a decree concerning the enrollment of the people of the various countries that made up the Roman empire. He issued the decree and sent it forth and the proper time that it would go into effect in Israel at the very time that the mother of our Lord would have to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem to be enrolled. So God times and directs the course of affairs, so that they will carry out His divine decrees and purposes. So when the time came for the child to be born Joseph who was then betrothed to Mary, had to journey over to Bethlehem with Mary at the very time when the child was to be born. The story concerning his advent into the world is of such marvelous beauty and is told with such gripping simplicity that I would like to present the passage in it's own words
Luke 2:1-20 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
The Saviour came into the world for our good. It always blows my mind to realize He was rich yet for our sakes he became poor so that we could become rich. Why me I say Lord I am grateful and astonished at your love for us.
II Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
Mary and Joseph had to flee shortly after the birth of Messiah to Egypt where they found asylum from the murderous intents of Herod. After Herods death Joseph being warned to return to the land of Israel, did so. Upon arrival, he settled in Nazareth where they lived until our Lord began his public ministry which lasted about three and a half years. This period of time which was filled with the greatest of events, culminated in his pouring out his precious blood for our redemption.The stroke that was due to fall upon us, fell upon him. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said
II Corinthians 5:18-21 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Paul also inspired of the Holy Spirit said
Romans 5:18 -21 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Since Jesus spared nothing for our good but went to that cruel cross for us - since He is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us daily the important questions for us daily are
What are we doing for Him ? What sacrifices have we made for Him? What are we doing at the present moment to advance His cause among men and to bring people to a saving knowledge of Him?
I praise God for this little devotional group which I am very grateful to write for. Together with many other people of many other churches and organizations we are doing what we can to get this Gospel message out and to win, equip and send people for God's Kingdom. We feel it is important to get this message out while there is still time and opportunity. The days pass by so fast and the world dashes into a sure and certain catastrophe which may burst forth on them unexpectedly at any time. Pray for us in the up and coming year and we will pray for you. From all of us to all of you it is our sincere prayer that our small sacrifice of time to write these devotionals may better equip you to help salvage souls from the wreckage of a lost world and that you may grow in grace as we draw ever nearer to seeing our Lord. As always may you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for when there is peace in Jerusalem there will be peace everywhere. And - oh yes ! Merry Christmas - In Jesus name amen
In His Service,