Let’s quickly recap our journey to Bethlehem. The first week of Advent, we learned the importance of a little town called Bethlehem. During the second week of Advent, we learned the wonderful names ascribed to Jesus hundreds of years before his birth.
In the third week of Advent, we traveled 90 miles to Bethlehem with a pregnant Mary and her betrothed Joseph for the census but spent the night in a stable instead of a room.
The best Christmas present we received was born that night in a Bethlehem stable accompanied by barnyard animals, and proud parents. The Savior of the world came to this earth without fanfare, but as we will see, God uses the most unlikely characters to spread the word of His Son’s birth.
Let’s pick up the story after the birth of Jesus.
Unlikely Birth Announcers
There were some shepherds in a nearby field keeping watch over their sheep. Shepherds were quite far from the elite class, and might have been considered outcasts in that society.
This starry night would be a night they would never forget.
While watching their sheep, an angel visited them, and can you guess what he said?
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said.
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” — Luke 2:9-12 (emphasis added)
Okay, let’s step back for a moment. One minute you are watching over your sheep and maybe trying to catch a few “zzz’s,” and the next moment, an angel appears as bright as daylight and tells you not to be afraid.
What do you think their first reaction was?
Be afraid, be very afraid.
This was probably their first encounter with an angel; however, they were curious. The angel tells them of a baby who was different. He was the Messiah!
Even the shepherds knew the Messiah would be coming at some point, and the angel shares this with them.
“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'” — Luke 2:13-14
As if one angel wasn’t terrifying enough to the shepherds, now there are armies of angels in the heavens proclaiming the birth.
This must have made them take notice in case they missed the supernatural single angel appearing to them.
They had just witnessed a miracle, and the shepherds left their sheep behind and headed to Bethlehem to see the Christ child.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, they found baby Jesus just as the angel had said – wrapped snugly in strips of cloth lying in a manger.
Here’s the best part – once they had seen the Christ child, they didn’t head back to the fields – they went out and told everyone they could find.
As you recall, Mary was still somewhere between 12-14 years of age when Jesus was born. If she had kept a diary during this time, I think we would have found this little nugget in it.
“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” – Luke 2:18-19
She is forever linked to the greatest gift in history – Jesus Christ.
Travelers From the East
Sometime after Jesus’ birth, wise men or Magi from the East saw the star above Bethlehem and wanted to come and worship the King.
They went before King Herod to ask permission to go see the Messiah. What’s interesting is the Magi understood who Jesus was at the time of His birth – they recognized that He was the coming Messiah.
In Matthew 2, they reference a passage from Micah 5, saying,
“'‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’” – Matthew 2:6
The Magi read the old scriptures as well, and it seems they were searching for the true Messiah and were expectant of His arrival. When the star appeared, they were ready to saddle up their camels and head to Bethlehem.
King Herod appeared to be interested in the birth of Jesus saying to the Magi,
“Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” – Matthew 2:8
However, there was another motive. King Herod did not want anyone to interfere with his throne, and Jesus was a threat to his reign (or so he thought).
The star that appeared for the Magi to see, guided their way to Bethlehem and to baby Jesus. The telling of the star is like following a movie.
Matthew 2:9-10 says,
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (emphasis added)
Scholars believe it was approximately two years after the birth of Christ when the Magi visited Mary, Joseph, and Jesus while bringing their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. These gifts were fit for a king and recognized who Jesus was, and who He was to the world.
There are two indications from scripture that time has passed since the birth of Jesus.
- Scripture refers to the family living in a house as opposed to visiting in the stable.
- Jesus is referred to as a child versus a baby 1
The Christmas story ends here with a powerful dream and warning provided by the Lord to return to their homeland by a different route.
King Herod was getting ready to issue a proclamation of death for children under the age of two for the entire land as a way to get rid of Jesus and protect the throne.2
We know from scripture that King Herod did not succeed in his plans to kill Jesus, and He would grow up to heal the sick, bring hope to the hurting, raise the dead, and ultimately pay the price on a Roman cross for your sin and mine (but that’s a story for Easter).
Our story of redemption started in the Garden of Eden, and arrived in a stable, and ends with a sacrifice on a cross.
Do you think Mary knew this when she looked into the eyes of baby Jesus in that stable?
I doubt it, because I think a mother sees what every mom sees when they look into the eyes of their child – hope, love, and a future. She knew this child was special because of the immaculate conception.
Mary plays a key role in our story of redemption, and during this time of year, we can embrace Christ’s best gift – salvation.
Today could be a Christmas gift that will never get old – you can embrace Christ in your life today. If you would like to accept the free gift of salvation that He is offering, you don’t need a fancy prayer or to put on your Sunday best. You can come as you are.
If you would like to pray a simple prayer of salvation, join me right now:
Lord, I know am a sinner, and I need you to come into my life. Please forgive for my sins and come into my heart and life, and make me a new creation. Thank you for coming to this earth, and dying for my sins on a cross so I don’t have to. Thank you for your sacrifice. Amen!
If you prayed this prayer today, welcome to the family of God! Scripture says the angels in heaven are rejoicing over you right now!
Every person’s journey to God is different, and though the journey may look similar, every story is unique. Some come from a heritage of faith while others meet Jesus through brokenness, addiction, or feeling an emptiness in their soul.
God relentlessly pursues us, because He wants each of us to embrace Him and join His eternal family. I want you to know that God loves you, and you were created by a God whose creativity is unmatched.
You are wonderfully handcrafted, and there is only one you. As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost, and that includes you and me.
You are precious to Him.
Lord, thank you for sending your Son to us to save us from ourselves. Thank you for caring enough to set in motion a redemption plan that began in the garden. We celebrate Your son’s birth this Christmas season. Thank you for your love and grace, and please help us to extend love and grace to those around us this season. Amen!
- Mary, Did you Know – Pentatonix video
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links contained on this website are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”