(Photo courtesy of www.wholetothecore.com)

Once again, it is that time of year. The gifts were purchased or made, and given, and it is almost time to take down the decorations. Parties have been attended, travel plans may have been on the agenda, and the baking is finished. Shopping, cleaning, visiting, church activities, and all the endless activities of the Christmas season are over. It is usually a busy as well as a happy time of year for most of us. In one week alone, I had made 2 fruit cakes, baked dozens of the small nut rolls, attended my daughter's college graduation, hosted a gathering for her afterward, and combined it with her son's birthday party! Now, the New Year is upon us.

However, today is a quiet pj's day, and I am sitting here at my computer working on December's article. As I was thinking about what this season means to us who love Jesus, and what to write about, it occurred to me the awesomeness of the idea that Father God came up with, about having His Son leave Glory and come to this earth as a human baby! AND God the Son actually AGREED that it was a good idea! Which kind of surprises me, especially with their foreknowledge of what all would be involved! (I'm sure MY first reaction to that idea would be “Yo, Dad, are you nuts”?! Or being close to Judaism, Jesus could have said “Oi vey, Papa....”!)

Leaving His throne in Heaven and being in charge of the Universe, to then be reduced to a human embryo growing inside a teenaged girl's body...to be powerless and dependent upon the Father to protect Him in His total vulnerability, and depending upon that young girl to do all that was needed to carry Jesus to full term? For part of the Holy Godhead to strip Himself of all His power and wisdom and condescend to a human egg fertilized by the Holy Spirit is a lot to wrap one's mind around! Then for Joseph to think, at first, that Mary was unfaithful to their betrothal, also had to be very stressful to HER.  It must have also taken some faith on her part, that God was going to settle the matter in Joseph's heart (which He did in the form of a dream {Matt. 1:20-21}).

Life for a pregnant, unmarried girl in those days was so shameful, it was necessary that Joseph do what was right in God's eyes, if only to protect Mary and the unborn King of Glory. Their customs were different from our current standards, more so than one might think. Not only in the area of chastity, but in many other ways. For instance: we always see pictures of the pregnant Mary riding on the back of the donkey, and Joseph walking on the way to Bethlehem. However, that wasn't the case in that day (or culture), for at that time, the Jewish man never walked (he would have been a laughingstock)...it was the wife who walked (behind him), and pregnancy didn't appear to make any difference unless they could afford two donkeys!

Also note our modern impression of the Nativity is different from the facts in another way. The actual meaning of the Greek word for inn (Luke 2:7) means “temporary shelter” in the original text, which was constructed by the Roman soldiers for the crowds of people that came into town on special occasions (such as tax time), and families had to return to the husband's birthplace. Joseph and Mary were from the house of David, about 80 miles away, in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and extra housing was needed in the cities. Therefore, it wasn't likely that Jesus was born in a stable. It is more likely that Christ was born in a shepherd's cave. Such a cave has been shown from antiquity as the birthplace of Jesus, (which is now under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem). Occasionally, the manger, which was cut from rock, or made out stones cemented together, would be used to feed livestock.

Finally, it is amazing to me that Jesus began His earthly life as a human baby! I don't know about Mary, but I think I would have been a nervous wreck to know I was raising the Holy Son of God! From the dietary laws for a pregnant mother (no salt foods, green veggies, or fat) to the Jewish custom of washing the newborn and rubbing salt over the skin in the belief it hardened it (Eze. 16:4). Then, learning to nurse a baby and dealing with the circumcision (as per the Jewish custom when 8 days old) plus all this wrapping Him in swaddling clothes, which were bandages four or five inches wide and five or six yards long, and was believed that the limbs would grow straight and firm if bound tightly to the sides by these “swaddling clothes” (Luke 2:7). They also kept the baby warm, cozy and protected and served as blankets and diapers. Mothers would just wrap their babies in clean strips whenever they needed changing. (No disposable diapers or cute baby clothes back then)!

These “motherly” things are overwhelming to any young girl as it is, but to know this baby was the Son of GOD! (“Oh Heavenly Father, PLEASE don't let me drop the Messiah”)!  Then there's teaching Him to sit up, take His first steps, eat solid food, and potty training, (oh dear...how do you teach the King of Kings not to make poohy in His pants!)

Mary was a simple girl of that period in time, yet what an honor and RESPONSIBILITY! And she had to keep that wondrous secret! Only her husband, Joseph, cousin Elizabeth, and her husband (priest Zacharias: Luke 1) knew prior to the birth WHO her unborn Son really was!!! After Jesus' birth, God also revealed to several shepherds and Wise men who the child really was. The shepherds saw the star that first night, as the angels of the Lord appeared to them in the field and announced the arrival of Messiah (Luke 2:8-20). They immediately went to Bethlehem and found the family, and told everywhere they went, what they had witnessed.

It took the Wise men a couple of years to travel all the way to Jerusalem following the star, learn where the Christ child lived with His parents, and finally get to see Him. The Bible doesn't say how old the men were or how many men there were but because three different gifts are mentioned, people assume that there were only three.

The gifts of the Wise men were prophetic as well as expensive:

GOLD stood for Kingship and Jesus is the King of kings and the Wise men recognized Him as such.

FRANKINCENSE is an expensive perfume made from the balsam tree. It was used by the priests in temple worship, to offer a pleasant fragrance unto God. This costly perfume, brought by the Wise men, showed that baby Jesus was worthy of their worship.

MYRRH is a thick, sweet-smelling liquid that comes from an African tree. In Bible days, its main use was in preparing a dead body for burial. Myrrh was rubbed on the skin. Then the body was wrapped in cloth and placed in a grave. This gift pointed to Jesus' death on the cross.

The Book of Matthew tells the story of the Wise Men, the Magi. They were most likely scholars from Persia or Arabia who learned about the birth of a new king by studying the Hebrew Scriptures. They traveled hundreds of miles following the star, first to Jerusalem, seeking the newborn at Herod's palace. There they learned about the Old Testament prophecy that a king would be born in Bethlehem.

A long time prior to the arrival of the Wise men, Baby Jesus had been taken to the Temple when He was about 6 weeks old to be dedicated to the Lord. Two elderly people, Simeon and the Prophetess Anna were there. Simeon always seemed interested in the babies coming for their dedication, but he was more than a kindly old grandfather. He was a scholar and knew the Scriptures and for years, had been looking for the promised Messiah. He was sure in his heart that this was the time for Him to appear. What's more, the Lord had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Child of Promise!

Day after day Simeon would be at the temple when the parents brought in their babes for dedication talking with them and looking at their babies. Day after day, he searched for the Promised One.

(Luke 2:21) One day, as he entered the temple, Simeon saw two poorly dressed people who had come to dedicate their son. He could tell by their clothes that they were Galileans, and that they were poor because they were carrying two birds in a cage for their offering. (A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons was the gift that only the poorest people were supposed to bring, Lev. 12:8). Simeon knew this was the Messiah! It was as if God had spoken to him saying “This is the Messiah! This is the One for whom you have been looking so long!”

And then Simeon took Him up in his arms, and blessed God and said, “Lord, let your servant depart in peace, according to your word: for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel”.  And Joseph and Mary marveled at those things which were spoken of him. Simeon then blessed them and turned to Mary and said, “Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against (yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

(Luke 2:36) Mary hardly had time to ponder what Simeon's strange words meant, before Anna the Prophetess came hurrying over to them. She was 84 years of age, and very excited. She took one look at Mary and the baby and began to thank God aloud that He sent the Messiah at last! People around her heard and came to see what was going on. Eagerly, Anna told her story and “spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Some believed; some doubted; but most just went on their way. But to Mary, the words of Simeon and Anna meant a great deal. Now she was more sure than ever that her baby was indeed the Messiah, the Child of promise and prophecy. Amen!





Dear Friends,

I hope you have enjoyed this year's Christmas Story. It was the most difficult message I have written in a long time, because of all the research needed to put the events in chronological order. Some of us must have things “in order”, and I have done my best to put these events in their proper sequence.

May God bless you all this New Year with His mercy, peace, and grace.

Have a Happy and Prosperous NEW YEAR, in Jesus!!

Pastor Moser,

December, 2012