We are one week from celebrating the birth of Christ, and it seems right that we understand this event in history. The birth of Christ was not just some unexpected and supernatural interruption of history. It was a long-awaited for event, foretold by the prophets of old and read of and retold by every devout Jewish home. And the vast majority completely missed it.
â€œYour father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.â€ (John 8:56)
When you read the story of Jesusâ€™ birth and early childhood, we see in Matthew chapter 2 that it took gentile wise men from the east to bring renewed attention to the birth of Christ. At least two years after the event, the Jewish leaders are made aware of Christâ€™s birth:
â€œNow after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, â€˜Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.â€™ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, â€˜In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.â€â€™â€ (Matthew 2:1-6)
Clearly the chief priests and scribes knew Scripture, and yet they missed the Messiah. It has been my experience when I confirm a Christians expectation or supposition of something found in Scripture, many turn from it and go their own way. Why? It is because it is a disruption of their present life. We can pray and hope for a miracle, but will we be ready to act when it comes? Such was the case with Martha and her brother Lazarus:
â€œJesus said, â€˜Take away the stone.â€™ Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, â€˜Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.â€™ Jesus said to her, â€˜Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?â€™â€ (John 11:39-40)
The birth of Christ was not some well kept secret hidden in Bethlehem; not long after Jesus was born, his parents brought Him to the temple in Jerusalem:
â€œNow when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, â€˜Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lordâ€™), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, â€˜A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.â€™â€ (Luke 2:22-24)
Yes, but Brother Dave, Joseph and Mary could have been one couple among many presenting their newborn son at the temple. True, but the story doesnâ€™t end there:
â€œAnd behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lordâ€™s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: â€˜Lord, now You are letting 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 peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.â€™ And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, â€˜Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.â€™â€ (Luke 2:25-35)
Okay, however Brother Dave, how do we know anyone overheard what Simeon said to the parents? That would be a possibility if the story ended there; but it doesnâ€™t:
â€œNow there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.â€ (Luke 2:36-38)
All this notwithstanding, when we see Christ coming to begin His ministry, His cousin John the Baptist is preparing the way and many wondering if he was the Messiah:
â€œNow as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, â€˜I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.â€™â€ (Luke 3:15-17)
John understood his peopleâ€™s desire and expectation for their Redeemer. Matthew Henry explains:
John the Baptist disowned being himself the Christ, but confirmed the people in their expectations of the long-promised Messiah. He could exhort them to repent, and assure them of forgiveness upon repentance; but he could not work repentance in them, nor confer remission of sins. Thus highly does it speak of Christ, and thus humbly of ourselves.
No man can confer salvation upon another. No parent, no priest, no pulpit can bring a person to salvation. Only Jesus Messiah can do that work because He has paid the cost for redemption.
Have you received the gift of salvation? There can be no greater gift to receive during Christmas than eternity with Christ.
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Copyright Â© 2013 David Jeffers