Dec 16, 2020, 2:45 PM
“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in Thee.” (Methodist Hymn Book 242)
In the two previous articles, we reviewed how God set the stage for the advent of the King of kings, in the person of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, the Christ, to make His entry into the earth. In this article we shall recount the actual event of His birth.
You will observe that the event went unnoticed. Only Joseph, Mary and Rebecca were privy to the virgin birth. Mary was considered highly-favoured to have been the mother of this baby that would be born King of the Jews. The couple had cause to travel to Bethlehem -- the town where Joseph hailed from -- to fulfil the civic duty of registering for a census. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. Wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6)
That this event did not attract any attention was intentional. The King of the Jews came to the world without pomp and pageantry that was befitting of a king. He came in all humility. Unlike the usual delivery, with grandfather and grandmother and other members of the family, this birth was low-keyed. As is recorded by Doctor Luke who reported the account, the child was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger.
The manger in question has long been misunderstood as the recipient for animal food. A manger was also what in our day is known as a crib. If there was no place in the inn, Joseph and Mary did not have the baby in the stable as a result of an emergency, for they were already several days in Bethlehem. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born...” We have believed this myth because we do not read our Bibles.
God sent His Son into the world, named Him Jesus for He would deliver His people Israel from their sins. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel – which means, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) Jesus and Immanuel were not the only names by which this baby would be called. We learn from prophet Isaiah that “He will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6b)
The birth of this baby was revealed to Gentiles Magi. Remember that Gentiles were pagans and therefore unbelievers, yet this mysterious occurrence was made known to them by God. Magi were astrologers, they interpreted the stars. The significance would be that Jesus came down from heaven to earth for everyone who would receive Him – Jews and Gentiles alike. What a privilege! It was as a result of their enquiries for the place where the baby would be born that the authorities and religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time learnt of this special event. That privilege had been denied them because of the state of their hearts.
The other group of people to whom the birth of baby Jesus was made known were some shepherds in the fields tending their sheep. “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 people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord. This will be the sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-11) What is the importance of the shepherds in the story of the nativity? It is symbolic in two ways: Jesus Himself would be our Shepherd and it coincided with the time when they were harvesting the firstborns of the sheep which would be used for sacrifice. Jesus’ coming to the world was symbolic in that He would be offering Himself as the Lamb of God, the sacrificial Lamb that would take away the sins of the world.
The Magi, who came from the east, followed the star to Israel but did not know that it would be Bethlehem. They were certain that the star announced the birth of a king, so naturally they landed at Herod the king’s palace – this brought about a new twist to the account. King Herod was disturbed hearing about another king in his sphere of influence. And though he pretended to welcome the news, he sought ways to get rid of the child.
Having received confirmation from the Scribes who after searching the Scriptures revealed that the town would be Bethlehem, the Magi set off to the place. It is wrongly believed that there were only three Magi but we know that Easterners of that rank would not just travel alone; they must have travelled with an entourage - particularly when the journey took two years. They would have travelled with all the paraphernalia that would be required during the journey. This demystifies the belief that there were only three kings who came from the east because they presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. If we take a cue from the gift-load that the Queen of Sheba took with her on her visit to King Solomon, we can draw a picture of what the entourage would have been like. If we read our Bibles closely we will not be carried away by the myth that the Magi presented just three gifts to the baby Jesus ‘in the stable.’
Apostle Matthew in his Gospel recorded “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... On coming to the house (not stable), they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)
Jesus left His throne in heaven, “... made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself ...” (Philippians 2:7-8) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8)
As we commemorate the NATIVITY this time around, take a step back and reflect on its essence and receive this wonderful gift from the Father into your hearts. Shalom!