The Jesus of Christmas is one of those memories we treasure. It’s not the day that I’m focusing on about Christmas, but the treasure of having Jesus who was born to give you and me eternal life. We have, fond memories of the Lord growing in our hearts. And those memories were built around His story. And today, we want to trace it back so that we can make Christmas alive again as we celebrate it. So, join me in retracing the Christmas story. We begin by tracing its steps through biblical history.
1. Retracing through Biblical history
“4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” Luke 2:4-5
The Bible tells us that since Joseph and Mary were both descendants of David, they went from their present place called Nazareth and traveled to Bethlehem, a grueling 112 kilometer-trip, to register for the census. But looking beyond the decree, how did Joseph and Mary end up in Bethlehem to give birth to our Savior? Luke’s account is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is a bigger narrative to discover.
About 700 years before Jesus was born, God through the prophet Micah said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Micah 5:2. God used Caesar Augustus decree to fulfill Micah’s prophecy. Perhaps, knowing that prophecy made Joseph and Mary’s to push through with their gruelling trip to Bethlehem. She knew she has the Savior, the Ruler from everlasting, in her womb, so she wanted to be at God’s appointed place.
Further down Israel’s history that made Bethlehem a sacred part of Christmas, is Naomi. Her story was recorded in the Book of Ruth. Naomi and her family were from Bethlehem. They went to the land of the Moabites for a better life. That was where she met Ruth, the Moabite, and became her daughter in law. After Naomi’s husband and all her sons died, she decided to go back to Bethlehem and start over again. Ruth, would not leave her side and together they traveled to Bethlehem. That was where Ruth met and married Boaz, a relative of Naomi. In time, they had a son named Obed, the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:13-17). Ruth the Moabite, a Gentile, was Jesus’ great grandmother.
One more thing from Bethlehem’s history worth mentioning is Jacob’s story. This small town was first mentioned in Genesis 35:19. On their way to Bethlehem, Jacob’s wife, Rachel, died giving birth to her last son, Benjamin. She was buried just right outside of Bethlehem. Providentially, Rachel was mentioned in the Christmas story. The gospel of Matthew (2:18) quotes Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 31:15). Rachel was considered by many as the mother of Israel. And when Jesus was born, Israel was parallel to the prophet Jeremiah’s situation where Nebuchadnezzar slaughtered many Israelites. King Herod, to kill Jesus, massacred male children ages 2 years and below. It was a human tragedy. So, it was like, Rachel crying over again as her children were being massacred. But in Jesus, a Son was given to her. He will be the last son to become King of Israel and preserve Rachels’ descendants.
What is the important point here? The point is that God in His sovereignty, planned and fulfilled exactly what He said He would do. God has not failed, does not fail, and will not fail in anything he planned to do.
2. Reflecting on Jesus’ birth.
The Bible said, “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.” Luke 2:7
Our present reality is somehow like the day when Jesus was born. Bethlehem was in a frenzy as people register for the census. Israelites from all over were coming home to this small town. By the time Mary was about to give birth, Joseph could not find any room as all inns were fully booked. So, when Jesus was born, Mary laid him in an animal feeding trough we call manger. In those days, they put their animals in caves to protect them. So, ancient tradition held the belief that Jesus was born in a cave, although the Scripture does not provide the exact location.
The Bible also tells us that Mary wrapped Jesus with swaddling clothes. The idea of swaddling or wrapping the baby tightly in clothes is to prevent the baby from scratching his eyes and face with his fingernails. In the Eastern culture, the lack of swaddling clothes meant a lack of parental care.
Jesus, the Creator of all things, the Majestic Son of the Most High, He who said, let there be light and there was light, equal to His heavenly Father, the Messiah born to Israel, incarnated and wore swaddling clothes, in a manger and cared for by a loving mother. What a humble sight that must have been.
At his birth, Jesus set aside his infinite majesty and even self-restricted his privilege of having angels surrounding him with their outstretched wings waiting for his command. Jesus, chose to momentarily, set aside his eternal riches in heaven and became poor while on earth. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
The effect of Christ’s condescension – that we may become rich. Rich in what? You may say, “I have nothing. What the rich has, I don’t have. Others have a house, a cabin, and a boat but I have none. They have luxury cars and I have none. So, how come Jesus said, he became poor, and through his poverty, I became rich?
Dear friends, you are rich in everlasting treasures. Regarding this, Spurgeon said, “But, yours are everlasting treasures; yours are solid riches. When the son of eternity shall have melted the rich man's gold away, yours shall endure. A rich man has a cistern full of riches, but a poor saint has got a fountain of mercy, and he is the richest who has a fountain.”
We have a fountain of mercy that never dries up, we are rich in his forgiveness. We have inherited eternal life made possible by God’s mercy. The Bible says, “4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:4.
There’s nothing more valuable than heaven. Our salvation cannot be corrupted, defiled or fade because it is being kept by the power of God. Our salvation is being preserved, not by human hands, but by the hand of the God who, in time past has not failed, at present, He does not fail, and in the future, He will not fail in anything he promised to do. So, what do we do now as one who have been granted incorruptible inheritance in Christ? I encourage you to…
3. Revisit your old Christmases.
How did we celebrate Christmas last year? We need to trace back our own Christmas history and move it compare it to the original event. Have we centered the celebration on Him who gave heaven to us? Have our past Christmases truly focused on Him rather than the commercialism of Christmas? The Bible tells us that Mary reflected on this momentous event in their history. Luke 2:19, tells us, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Mary pondered in her heart the angel appearing and announcing the birth of the Savior. She reflected on the magnificent vast choir of mighty angels, praising and worshipping God because of her baby. Mary kept this history alive in her heart. She was the humble human instrument for delivering the great “I am,” the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, the Redeemer of God’s people, the miracle worker, and most of all, her personal deliverer. She delivered him, but he will deliver her from her sins.
The announcement that Mary would bear the Almighty in her womb, made her to sing her song of her deliverance in Luke 1:46-49. Mary’ heart has always been saturated with the sacred things. Even before she gave birth to Jesus, she sang a song that was filled with the Word of God. She was “highly favoured”, a recipient of much grace in Greek. She did not lend herself the notion that she was to be adored called herself a maidservant of God. The quality of Mary that is worth emulating is her humility. In her humility, she forsook all criticisms, made sacrifices, and left traces of Christmas though her song of deliverance.
We must follow her footsteps and in humility before God, we must also make sacrifices and leave traces of Christmas, telling the whole world that Jesus the Messiah came as God planned. When you reach your destination, you won’t be able to do this anymore. So, leave traces of Christmas everywhere you go, and as you do, you will truly celebrate the reason of Christmas.