The Christmas Story
To Us A Child Is Born...
Elizabeth was six months
pregnant when Mary conceived.
Since John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, was
born in March, a normal nine-month gestation
period would place his conception in June.
Elizabeth would have been six months into
her pregnancy in late December, the time of
Mary’s conception, placing the Lord’s Birth
in September, six months after John’s.
Joseph knew he was not the baby’s father,
but accusing Mary of infidelity would have ruined
her entire life and brought about her execution,
sex outside of marriage being a capital crime.
A betrothal could only be ended through
divorce, so that’s the remedy he sought.
The name "Jesus" is the Greek rendering of
the Hebrew - "Yeshua", which means "God brings
salvation." Though in every sense of the word
he was “God with us” (Emanuel), it is only through
Him that “God brings salvation” (Jesus).
The Birth of Jesus
Quirinius was governor from 6-4 BC and again
from 6-9 AD. He had a census taken in each
term of office. This one was during his first
term. Acts 5:37 refers to the second one.
More importantly, roads in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem
area often became impassable after late fall due to
winter storms, so it’s highly improbable that he would
have required everyone to travel in late December.
Early fall is a more likely time, just after the harvest.
So Joseph also went up from the town
of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to
Bethlehem the town of David, because
he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to
him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came
for the baby to be born, and she
gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him
in a manger, because there was no room
for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)
Swaddling cloths, as they were called,
were cut from worn out priestly garments.
Mostly they were braided together and used as wicks
for the four great four-branched menorah placed in
the Temple courts during the Feast of Tabernacles.
These giant lamps were so tall that priests
had to lug buckets of oil up 30-foot ladders
to keep them burning, and it’s said that the
light they produced illuminated the entire city.
These linen cloths were the first earthly garments
to adorn our High Priest, the Light of the World.
The Shepherds and the Angels
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 of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Saviour
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 2:8-12)
Again, the winter weather around Jerusalem would have
kept shepherds out of the open fields after late October.
The animals being tended were Temple flocks,
lambs that had been carefully bred over
many years to be free of spot or blemish.
These were the animals the pilgrims from far
off bought to serve as sacrifices during the Holy
Days, rather than take the risk of bringing one
of their own on the long journey from home.
These lambs served no other purpose. They
were born to die for the sins of the people.
It’s fitting that their shepherds were the first to learn of
the Birth of The Lamb born to die for the sins of mankind.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared
with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into
heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that
has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the
word concerning what had been told them
about this child, and all who heard it were
amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and
praising God for all the things they had
heard and seen, which were just as
they had been told. (Luke 2:13-20)
Traditionally, the birth of a firstborn son
was cause for great celebration in Israel.
The firstborn was the heir, and
assured the continuation of the family.
Those fathers who could afford to hired
musicians to parade through the streets
singing, dancing and joyfully announcing
the new arrival to all within earshot.
Mary and Joseph were several days
journey from home and family and didn’t
have money for musicians, but the God
of the Universe had it all taken care of.
Opening the Heavens, He had His
angelic choir sing the praises due
this uniquely blessed event.
On the eighth day, when it was time
to circumcise Him, he was named Jesus,
the name the angel had given Him before
He had been conceived. (Luke 2:21)
Before the Lord ordained the ritual of circumcision
for males, He arranged for the coagulating pro-enzyme
called prothrombin to be at 130% of normal adult levels
on the eighth day of life, and for natural analgesic
enzymes in the blood to be at lifetime highs as well.
Circumcision on any other day can be
a painful and bloody event, but on the
eighth day of life it’s remarkably less so.
Of course, this is a fact the medical profession
has only learned in the last century.
Back then they just knew that everything worked
better when they were obedient to God’s Commands.
When the time of their purification according to the
Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary
took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as
it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn
male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a
sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the
Lord:“a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)
It was 33 days after Jesus had been circumsized.
Since Joseph and Mary could not afford a
Lamb for Mary’s purification, the Law permitted
them to use the two birds instead. (Exodus 12:8)
The Visit of the Magi
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but
not near. A Star will come out of Jacob; a
Scepter will rise out of Israel … (Numbers 24:17)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during
the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came
to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is The One who
has been born king of the Jews? We saw His
Star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
When King Herod heard this, he was
disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
When he had called together all the people’s
chief priests and teachers of the law, he
asked them where the Christ was to be born.
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied,
“for this is what the prophet has written:
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of
Judah; for out of you will come a Ruler who
will be the Shepherd of my people Israel."
The Magi were Parthian Priests, descendants
of the priesthood the Prophet Daniel had
organized in Persia some 500 years earlier,
upon learning the timing of Messiah’s coming.
Knowing the time was at hand, these priests
had been searching the heavens for the promised
sign of His Coming, a new star in the Eastern sky.
Parthia was a powerful kingdom north and
east of Israel, a remnant of the Persian
Empire that had recently defeated the
Roman Legions, and the Magi were
among Parthia’s most powerful leaders.
No Parthian ruler could ascend to the throne
without their blessing and indeed their political
influence was felt through out the Middle East.
Contrary to the popular Christmas Carol
they were king-makers, not kings,
and they were many more than three.
Since Israel was under Roman control, the
Magi technically represented an enemy country.
Aware of this, but not intimidated, they traveled
in a huge caravan with lots of guards, and their
arrival in Jerusalem set the whole city a-buzz.
Herod would be called a Jordanian today.
He was appointed king by the Roman Senate.
In short he was a pretender to the throne in
Israel, and now these Parthian King-makers had
come seeking the One born to be Israel’s King.
No wonder he was disturbed.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly
and found out from them the exact
time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and make a careful search for the Child.
As soon as you find him, report to me,
so that I too may go and worship Him.”
After they had heard the king, they went
on their way, and the star they had seen
in the east went ahead of them until it
stopped over the place where the Child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the
Child with his mother Mary, and they
bowed down and worshiped Him.
Then they opened their treasures
and presented Him with gifts of
gold and of incense and of myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not
to go back to Herod, they returned
to their country by another route.
The three gifts are symbolic of the
Messiah’s three present offices in His Kingdom.
Gold is the gift for a King, frankincense points
to the Priest, and myrrh, an embalming spice
that foretold His Death, represents the Prophet.
The Magi did not arrive on the
night the Lord was born.
The text appears to indicate that
by the time they did arrive, Joseph
and Mary had found a house to stay in.
And as we read above, they had already
had Jesus circumcised and dedicated
at the Temple on His eighth day of life,
and Mary had completed her 33 day time
of purification as required by the Law.
If Jesus was born on Rosh HaShannah
as seems likely, the family would have
stayed in the Jerusalem area for Yom
Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles as
well, since Joseph’s attendance, along with
all other able bodied males, was mandatory.
When the Magi had gone, an angel of the
Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
“Get up,” he said, “take the Child
and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is
going to search for the Child to kill him.
So he got up, took the Child and his mother
during the night and left for Egypt, where
he stayed until the death of Herod.
And so was fulfilled what the Lord had
said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt
I called my Son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Too poor to buy a lamb for the purification
only a few days ago, Joseph and his family
suddenly have the means to travel to Egypt
and stay there until Herod died.
How can this be?
Tradition has it that because of his
lifetime of service at the highest levels
of Babylonian and Persian governments,
Daniel had become a wealthy man.
Since he was most likely castrated
by Nebuchadnezzar he had no heirs,
and so after he formed the Magi,
he left his fortune in their care to be
given to the Messiah upon His Birth.
If so, then the Magi’s gifts of Gold
Frankincence and Myrrh were Daniel’s
fortune, delivered to Him just in time
to fund His escape from Herod’s soldiers.
This is what the LORD says: “A voice is
heard in Ramah, mourning and great
weeping, Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted, because her
children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)
When Herod realized that he had been
outwitted by the Magi, he was furious,
and he gave orders to kill all the boys
in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were
two years old and under, in accordance
with the time he had learned from
the Magi. (Matthew 2:16)
The Magi had been watching for the star.
When they first saw it they made
preparations for a long journey and
once prepared, set out to follow it.
We don’t know exactly where they set
out from, when they first noticed the
star, or how long it took them to get
ready, but their journey could easily
have been several hundred miles long.
The only clue we get as to the time of their
arrival is that after asking them when the
first spotted the star, Herod ordered all
the boys in Bethlehem below the age of
two years old to be killed.
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared
in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up,
take the Child and his mother and go to the land
of Israel, for those who were trying to take
the Child’s Life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19-20)
When Joseph and Mary had done everything
required by the Law of the Lord, they returned
to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And
the Child grew and became strong; He was filled
with wisdom, and the Grace of God was upon him.
Home at last. A journey of several days had
lasted several years. And just about every day
of it a reminder to our Lord that the world
He came to save held no place for Him.
“Foxes have holes,” He would later say,
“And birds of the air have nests, but the
Son of Man has no place to lay His Head.”
It’s always fascinated me that after
reading Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s
Birthplace, Herod and the chief priests
sent the Magi to Bethlehem in search of
Him, but didn’t go to see for themselves.
Did they think they were sending the
Magi on a futile search, certain
they wouldn’t find anything?
If so, why did they consult their
Scriptures for an answer to Herod’s
question, and why did Herod have
all those children killed?
Maybe Herod can be excused for not going.
He wasn’t even Jewish and probably
knew very little of Messianic prophecy.
But the Chief Priests were reading from
their own Scriptures, and with evidence
of the star the Magi had followed to
confirm the prophecy, should have
been the first to investigate.
After all, Messianic prophecy was being
fulfilled right before their very eyes.
What I’d give to have overheard
their discussions on this.
The nature of the Lord’s Life on Earth
had been predicted long before, and right
from the start was proving to be all too real.
He grew up before Him like a tender
shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him,
nothing in His Appearance that we should desire Him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a Man
of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
The only ones who even had a clue as to
Who He was were given their understanding
through a direct revelation from God.
They included Joseph and Mary, of course.
The Parthian priests had learned of
Him through Daniel’s revelation, and the
shepherds witnessed the angelic visitation.
Two others, Simeon and Anna, had both
received direct revelations and served to
confirm everything to Joseph and Mary
in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 19:15.
A matter must be established by the
testimony of two or three witnesses.
And that’s it. Having looked for the
arrival of the Promised Messiah for
nearly 4000 years, when He came
only a hand full of people understood.
There’s no indication that either the priest
who performed the circumcision or the one
who received the obligatory sacrifice of the
firstborn had any idea who this Child was.
Surely He took up our infirmities and carried
our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken
by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He
was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment
that brought us peace was upon Him, and by
His Wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
And yet He had come for the sole purpose of
healing the incredible rift in our relationship
with God, (Colossians 1:19), delivering us from
the unspeakable horrors of the destiny due us
(Romans 5:9) and elevating us to the highest
position in His Kingdom (Ephesians 2:6).
Not because we could ever earn or deserve it,
but because He loved us enough to do it,
and had promised He would.
Thank You Lord Jesus. We owe You our
eternal lives. Blessings and honor and glory,
love and worship, devotion and adoration
be to You, for You alone are worthy!
Jack Kelley - Grace Thru Faith