Here’s a really good one from Lee. Good things to consider and think about…especially at this time of year! Enjoy!-anita
During my prayer time this morning, I was thinking about how Jesus came to earth that first Christmas evening. That led me to think about the participants on that night. And the over-riding thought or word I had was one of obedience. Let’s look at the key participants from that night.
- Mary—with the news given by the angel, she had to know that a pregnancy would jeopardize her upcoming marriage, and the people of her village undoubtedly would castigate her relentlessly. Her response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word.” [Lk 1:38 ESV]
- Joseph—despite the scurrilous gossip that would surround his situation with his betrothed as she became clearly and visibly pregnant, Joseph heard a word from the Lord in a dream. Awakening from his sleep, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took [Mary] as his wife….” [Mt 1:24,25]
- Shepherds—The lowly shepherds were hard at work that night tending their flocks. Some people speculate that Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter because it would be too cold for sheep & shepherds to be outside on all those cold nights. According to my research, the average low temperature in the Bethlehem area in winter is low- to mid-40s. While chilly, still tolerable. Also, according to Dr. Mary Gessert, who holds a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine, “…sheep tolerate winter conditions quite well.” [See website www.littlehats.net] She notes that sheep wool insulates them quite well and also keeps out moisture very effectively. And back to those shepherds. First an angel came to them and told them not to be afraid but that a savior had been born that night, “he is Christ the Lord.” [Lk 2:8-20] Then the heavenly choir appeared. The Bible uses the term “multitude,” which in Greek is the word “plethos,” which denotes a large number or throng—so it’s quite possible there were hundreds or even thousands of angels or more singing God’s glory just to these lowly shepherds. What did the shepherds do? They immediately and obediently headed for Bethlehem to see this new-born child. Afterwards, they returned to their flocks, telling everyone they saw what they had seen, all the while glorifying and praising God for all He had done that night. An interesting aside here: a theory exists that Jesus might have been born actually in the company of the shepherds. According to this theory, a mile or two outside of Bethlehem there stood a special watch tower called the Migdal Eder, which in Hebrew means the Tower of the Flock (this location is cited by Eusebius, an historian of the early church). So this theory goes, sheep (and cattle) born here were used as sacrificial animals at the nearby Temple in Jerusalem. Further, sheep born here were examined for good health in a manger (which kept them from escaping during the exam) and were often wrapped in swaddling clothes to denote how special they were as future sacrificial animals. Finally, this same source cites an ancient Jewish prophesy that the messiah would come to “the tower of the flock.” [See the first mention of this Tower of Eder in Gen 35:21. It occurs again in Micah 4:8 which speaks of the kingdom coming to this tower, and this kingdom is further described in Zechariah 9:9-10 which includes the reference that the king will come “humble, and mounted on a donkey,” a clear reference to Jesus and His ascent into Jerusalem during Holy Week.] According to the Jewish Talmud, all cattle (and by association, sheep raised in this same area) “as far as Migdal Eder” were holy and could only be used for sacrifices in the Temple. It can then be deduced that these same shepherds were not ordinary shepherds but were servants of the sacrificial system in Jerusalem. The source for discussion of this prophecy, Dr. Juergen Buehler, notes that, based on the prophesy in Micah 4:8, Jewish writers in the Midrash (a compilation of rabbinic literature and commentary usually directed at specific Bible OT passages) concluded that “…it would be the Migdal Eder where the arrival of the Messiah would be declared first.” [See the website https://int.icej.org and search on “The Tower of the Flock.” ICEJ is the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.] Dr. Buehler then states that the angels appeared that night not just to simple shepherds in the fields. “It was a powerful prophetic sign to all of Israel,” says Buehler.
- The angels—Defined in Heb 1:14 as “…ministering spirits, sent out to” serve those who inherit salvation (mankind). In this case, following the directive of God the Father, the angel came to herald the birth of the Christ child. He was immediately followed by a host of angels who first glorified God then told of peace on earth “…among men with whom He is pleased.” [Lk 2:9, 10, 14]
- Wise Men—Whether they came at the time of the birth or (as some speculate) at a later date is less important than the fact that they came at all. They came with some important facts, too: they had seen a star and knew that One had been born as King of the Jews. Their reaction upon encountering this holy child: the Bible says they were overjoyed, worshipped the child and gave Him gifts. [Mt 2:1-12] As an aside, the gifts given by the magi are thought by some to befit Jesus’ life and mission: gold to represent His deity, incense the beautiful fragrance of His life, and myrrh to foretell His sacrifice and death (myrrh was used as an embalming agent).
- The Christ child—What about the new-born One; was He obedient? The Bible is clear that Jesus knew His mission, His purpose, in coming to earth that night. The angel told Mary and Joseph to give the child the name Jesus, which means Jehovah saves. “…for He will save His people from their sins.” [Mt 1:21-23] As brutal and humiliating as the cross was, Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame in order to “[sit] down at the right hand of the throne of [His Father].” Heb 12:2 And even though He struggled with the impending crucifixion because He would become distanced (forsaken) from His Father as He took on the sins of the world, Jesus said to His Father, “…yet, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” And again, a short time later, “…Thy will be done.” [Mt 26:39, 42]
So each of the players in this God-ordained event was being obedient to the will of God. In both painful and, in some cases, triumphant ways, each carried out faithfully their part in this great story of the coming of the Messiah to earth. Where mankind, once and for always, was saved from sin and death. Saved, quite simply, because man could never do this himself…it took a God, our God, our Jesus.