As we discussed certain elements of the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, which we celebrate as Christmas, in Sunday School seven particular things really spoke to me. Those seven elements were:
- Matthew – The Tax Collector as a Historian
- Virgin Conception
- Joseph – Man of Faith
- Jesus’ Name – Emmanuel
- The Manger – Symbol in Livestock
- Shepherds – Heavenly Proclamation & Foreshadowing of Jesus’ Role
- Star & The Magi
I shared with you the impact four of these seven things had, and perhaps some of the beautiful symbology in each. Today, I would like to explore with you the last three. With Christmas drawing very close, I would like to be able to take these key elements of the biblical account of Christmas, and let them make a lasting impression on me. I hope and pray that they might also do the same for you as we begin our exploration of the Christmas story today with number five…
5. The Manager – Symbol of Livestock
Jesus did not come within the warmth of a home. Nor did Christ come in the shelter of an inn or hospital. There was no midwife. The streets and inns of Bethlehem were abuzz. Everyone had come, on account of royal decree, for a census. It was much like the hotels and streets would be in places such as Albuquerque during the annual Balloon Fiesta, or the Wall Street in New York during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…in short folks, IT WAS PACKED!!! Having now where else to go, Mary and Joseph took shelter in a stable. It was there Mary gave birth.
Luke 2:1-7King James Version (KJV)
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
What is the significance in this, you may wonder. Well….let us look at various aspects of this.
Jesus was born a Heavenly King. Kings and most royalty did not have such humble beginnings. The birth of Jesus Christ in the stable, or enviroment made to contain livestock is NO MISTAKE. This is NOT a coincidence. Jesus, much as his place of birth, was a humble king.He is and was a king that receives all that come to Him regardless of their gender, color, or stature. He is a Savior that came for all mankind. These humble orgins are but a softly whispered reminder of that.
The beauty of the manger does not end there. When we think of stables, we think of various farm type animals….horses, cows, donkeys…pigs…and sheep. The one that drew me the most is the sheep. Was this perhaps God’s way of declaring: This Is Heaven’s Perfect Lamb?
I would like to think so.
More Informaion: What Is A Manger – History
For hundreds of years God had been silent. He had allowed His people to fall into captivity and had been quiet. When Jesus was born, the very Heaven’s themselves proclaimed the royal birth. Who were the first to hear?
Luke 2:8-15King James Version (KJV)
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Shepherds were farmers. Their livestock was their well-being and very way of life. They tended to the sick, the lame, the heavy laden. When one went missing, they sought it out and returned it to the flock. This same love, patience, and devotion was what Jesus gave each of us.
So maybe when God sent His angels to proclaim the Good News unto those shepherds, he was giving us a glimpse of what the Savior who was to come was and is going to be like.
For Jesus healed the sick. – Matthew Chapter 8
Matthew 8King James Version (KJV)
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
Jesus looked for and accepted the lost, and made them a part of His flock. He ministered and loved them as a shepherd does his sheep.
Mark 2:13-17King James Version (KJV)
13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
More Information: Shepherds – Who They Were and What They Did
7. The Star and the Magi – God’s long silence and Prophecy
Matthew 2:1-2 New International Version (NIV)
The Magi Visit the Messiah
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Sunday in both Sunday School and during the Noel Performance…the Magi were presented as astronomers, scribes, philosophers, and generally well read as well as educated men. Just who were they? In truth, I do not know. Some believe they were kings. Others believe they were advisers. From what the bible speaks of them, I know them as historians as well as philosophers as they knew well of the star as well as its meaning for being placed in the heavens.
What is amazing here is that even through this…we see these men presenting gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. We also see that they see a child…not a babe. Even when they came to see Him, it was not in a lowly stable, but a home!
Matthew 2:9-11New International Version (NIV)
9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
These men likely traveled a long way and for a long time in order to see Him. If we look into scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth, we see it. It could have taken them up to as long as two years journey to find him! Two years! What was it that guided them on their way? A star! Many claim this was a form of super nova or the like. All I know is, the Magi were vigilant and patient. They not only looked a for a sign, they waited for it. Upon seeing it, they persistently sought after it. We also notice that there is some proof in scripture that can support this, as we see Herod make decrees out of fear of the New Born King.
Matthew 2:16-18New International Version (NIV)
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
These men’s coming was significant too for more than the means and situation in which brought them there. Their gifts too, they each carry a rather important message to their Savior. What is the importance of the gifts the wise men gave?
Gold – This one really should be obvious, but given likely that the currency back in Biblical times was more about the worth of the metal itself, gold was rare. It was likely reserved for those with wealth and power. Only those such as kings would carry it in abundance. The presentation of Gold as a gift for Jesus acknowledged Him as a King.
Frankincense – This was a sacrament. Priests, those who came to petition unto God for the people were often anointed with this. Incense was also something offered unto God. The giving of incense as a gift acknowledges Jesus as a Heavenly Offering and perhaps as the very Lamb of God.
Myrrh – This was for embalming, for preparation of the dead. Given that these men, be they kings or otherwise, knew that the arrival of that star was important and what it signified..it is likely they were also aware of the prophesies that foretold of Jesus’ death. The wise man’s gift of Myrrh was his acknowledgement and acceptance of Christ as his Savior!
More information: Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh – Bible Archaeology
May You Be Blessed This Day…
May You Also Experience The Gift of Christ’s Life, Love, and Ministry This Christmas!