Do you tear through holiday tasks like a machine, cranking out the baking, shopping and decorating, but forget the miracle?
Have you gawked at the Christmas lights, only to miss the Light of the world?
Is present-giving more important than being present?
Have Christmas traditions crowded out Christ?
Bring on the lights, the gifts, the cookies, concerts, and Christmas trees. Celebrate the newborn King! But, keep a steady focus on the true historic events that have brought us here to another Christmas.
Immerse yourself in the story—marvel at the mystery.
I’m no longer content with the rote highlights of Jesus’ birth. I imagine myself in the shoes of Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the others.
The string of events surrounding Jesus’ birth was divinely orchestrated with such great precision, we’d be stunned if we could see the tiny strategic details.
Christmas was foretold by prophets who lived hundreds of years before Jesus. Generations of Jews knew the Scriptures and, for 700 years, they waited for a redeemer to save them and set them free.
I’ve waited for a husband, for babies and for my turn in a long line, but I haven’t waited my entire life.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV
As the grand plan finally unfolded, around 5 BC, there was a man, Zechariah, from the hill country of Judea, who was a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were childless. Lots were drawn to assign one priest the duty of burning incense in the temple. It likely was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On this day, Zechariah happened to be chosen. As he served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. This was an unusual occurrence for a priest, and Zechariah was afraid. Gabriel told him his wife would become pregnant, and they would have a son, John. He’d be Jesus’ forerunner, and bring many people in Israel back to God. Zechariah questioned the angel since his wife was past child-bearing years. Because of his doubt, he’d be unable to talk until the day his son was born.
While Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, Gabriel appeared to a young girl, Mary, in the town of Nazareth. Mary was a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.Luke 1:28
Mary was troubled and afraid, but she said yes to the Lord. Gabriel explained that she’d become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her baby would be named Jesus, Son of the Most High. He’d reign over the house of Jacob and his kingdom will never end.
If I were Mary, I’d be in shock. I’d doubt Gabriel’s message as Zechariah did. In my mind there would be a million questions. What are my alternatives? What if Joseph leaves me?
This makes me wonder, do I doubt God today? Am I hard of hearing? Will I be quick to surrender myself to God the way Mary did?
Mary hurried from Nazareth to her cousin Elizabeth’s home near Jerusalem.
I’d pictured her walking down a road, around a bend, arriving in 30 minutes. But, the trip was between 80 and 100 miles. How difficult that would be.
Imagine sitting in a room with Elizabeth and Mary, as they chatted. The indescribable excitement and wonder. In the three months Mary visited, they must have encouraged each other about the upcoming events. Just think, Mary may have held John in her arms.
Gabriel also spoke to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed. He explained Mary’s pregnancy and told Joseph to go through with the marriage. Joseph could’ve chosen to leave, but he was a faithful man, so he stayed.
After they married, Mary and Joseph were required by Caesar Augustus to take part in a census, so they traveled 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
This is a big problem. I remember what it was like to be pregnant and ride in a car over speed bumps and potholes. She was full-term and riding on a donkey.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, there was no place to stay. Only a smelly cave-like barn to share with animals.
The shepherds were at work in the fields when an angel appeared to give them good news of great joy. A baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, is born in Bethlehem. The sky filled with bright light and a chorus of angels singing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14).
Pause and picture yourself giving birth in that place.
God chose the lowly and obscure places and people to accomplish His plan from beginning to end. A shepherd’s job was exhausting and filthy. Twenty-four hours a day, he watched those wandering sheep and cared for them just like our Good Shepherd looks after us all hours of the day and night.
Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Here we find two faithful folks who help us imagine the Jews’ passionate anticipation of the Messiah.
A man named Simeon had been waiting for the comfort of the long foretold Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ. Simeon went into the temple courts and held Jesus while he praised God. His desire was fulfilled; he was ready to die in peace. He pronounced a blessing on Jesus’ family.
Anna, a prophetess, eighty-four years old, worshiped day and night in the temple. She’d been widowed after only seven years of marriage, and devoted herself to watching and waiting for Jerusalem’s redemption. How thrilled she was to see Jesus with her own eyes and to share her joy with like-minded friends.
Sometime within two years of Jesus’ birth, Magi traveled hundreds of miles from the East to Jerusalem to consult King Herod about the king of the Jews they’d heard about. The evil Herod pretended to celebrate the baby’s birth, but actually wanted to destroy him because his kingship was threatened.
The Magi followed a star, which scientists believe could have been a planet that moved in such a strategic way it appeared to highlight the home of young Jesus. They spent many months studying, planning and making their trip to Herod first, then to Jesus. They worshiped Jesus and brought him lavish gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh. Each gift carried special significance in the life of the Messiah (Matthew 2:11).
God warned the Magi to not return to King Herod. In desperation, Herod announced an edict to kill all baby boys two and under, in a plot to destroy Jesus. Joseph was warned by the angel to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt in order to escape Herod’s evil edict.
God protected His Son from Herod’s evil plan because His time had not yet come.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
Will I sacrifice my pride to obey God’s message like Joseph?
Will I trust God with my life like Mary, believing God is creating something beautiful, even when I don’t understand?
Will I watch, like the shepherds, for ordinary moments when heaven breaks through to earth?