All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is… He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness. All this, and infinitely more, alive in an impoverished baby in a barn. That is what Christmas means – to find in a place where you would least expect to find anything you want, everything you could ever want.
The sentimental Christmas may be popular as a religious holiday for some because it can come off as celebrating the birth of a helpless baby. Jesus lies in a manger to be gazed upon and adored, but not to be heard and heeded. A speechless babe wrapped tightly in swaddling cloths seems more obliging in allowing people to tailor their religious beliefs however they see fit.
The story of Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of God’s promises and the incarnation of God in human flesh. That meaning is memorably captured by John 3:16. God loves, and God gives in order to save… It meant giving rather than getting, and Christ gave until He was empty; but His obedience led to an empty tomb and ultimate vindication that will culminate when throngs in heaven and on earth and under the earth, not just a host of angels, will bow down and sing glory in the highest to the One whose name is above every name.
The Savior who dies on a shameful cross was placed in a lowly trough for barn animals when He was born.
Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.
Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant’s head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die.
Or consider Christmas – could Satan in his most malignant mood have devised a worse combination…than the system whereby several hundred million people get a billion or so gifts for which they have no use, and some thousands of shop clerks die of exhaustion while selling them, and every other child in the western world is made ill from overeating – all in the name of the lowly Jesus? (Upton Sinclair).
The [Christian] message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.
The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for his own people–that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce his return, when we shall always be with him.
In contrast to today’s Christ-less Christmas, God so orchestrated the events during the first Christmas to frame the supremacy of Christ in a remarkable way without diminishing His humility. On that first Christmas, Jesus did not appear to kings in a palace, nor was His birth surrounded with splendor and royalty. Rather, God chose the weak things of the world to shame the wise and better provide a backdrop that would not rob, but rather radiate the glory of the newborn King. Unlike today, the humble events surrounding Christ’s birth that first Christmas allowed Him to be the center focus and attraction of the day.
Whether it be Joseph and Mary, the dirty stable, the humble shepherds or the pagan Magi, the magnificent superiority of Jesus Christ was perfectly framed by its surroundings that first Christmas. Nothing distracted from the intent of the message, and the response was none other than worship!
We all admire and adore the baby Jesus born in the manger, but what we must mainly admire and adore is the Man on the cross – the fact that Jesus was born ultimately to die. He didn’t die because the Jews and Romans finally we able to put an end to this supposed troublemaker. He didn’t die because God wanted to show us an example of commitment to a cause or how to pay the definitive sacrifice or how to demonstrate humility or show love that is willing to suffer for friends. In a sense these are all true, but the ultimate reason Jesus died on the cross is because that was His primary mission to take away the sins of the world. 1 Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”
Nativity scenes and Christmas cards make the birthing place of Jesus like something out of a “Tennessee Made-for-Television Christmas Special” with Garth Brooks sitting on a bale of hay strumming some of our Holiday favorites in a clean barn with domesticated animals and seats for the children to drink their hot chocolate. Clearly this was not the case for Joseph and Mary. The conditions were crude. We can assume animals were present, but the text never confirms it. Animals probably were at some time housed there since Jesus was placed in a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals. The whole place smelled not only from animal droppings, but also from poverty, scandal, insignificance, helplessness, humiliation and embarrassment.
So does God really want our focus on a cute, adorable baby or does He want our focus on who that baby is and what He will become? That’s why the text is silent regarding Jesus’ physical appearance. Yet at the same time, the text is also careful not to undervalue the greatness of His arrival, but to present His arrival in a way where nothing within the narrative will distract from His glory.
You see, when it comes to the birth of Christ, it’s hard to find anything to brag about other than the birth of Christ! Stinky stable (and not a warm hospital), wooden manger (and not a beautiful crib), insignificant parents (and not reputable people), notorious town (and not the religious city of Jerusalem), dangerous journey (and not a bed for Mary), Roman dictatorship (and not servant leadership), swaddling cloths (and not fresh linens). It is mostly bad so that we might not miss the good.
The focus is on the baby! But the focus is not on a baby, but again who this baby is and what He will become. The Christmas story is about wonder (Lk. 2:19, 51). You see, if He were born to Caesar Augustus in a palace there is not much left to the imagination. But we are called to intense faith to believe that somehow this child is Lord and will be Messiah and Savior (Lk. 2:11). The narrative makes it clear that for this to happen it must be the hand of God with Whom nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37).
Was Jesus the pawn in Caesar’s hands or was Caesar the pawn in God’s hands to accomplish God’s prophetic purposes in bringing the Messiah to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy (Mi. 5:2-5)?
Though still set apart, retaining all His holiness and deity, God in His infinite wisdom became a man that first Christmas morning and chose to dwell intimately and personally amongst His creation. The God who created stars larger than our earth’s orbit and ten million times brighter than our sun, created the womb where He would grow and the manger where He would lay. The God who dwelt in perfect glory through eternity past would be wrapped in swaddling cloths to share space with barnyard animals. The God who deserved every right to born in a palace to royal people, humbled Himself and chose Bethlehem and a poor betrothed teenage couple named Mary and Joseph. Most humiliating was the fact that God, though without sin, took on human flesh with all its weaknesses and problems and chose to dwell among sinners.
“Immanuel, God with us.” It is hell’s terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it… Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, “God with us,” back he falls, confounded and confused… “God with us” is the laborer’s strength. How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away?… “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.
Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast… But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem. Let Him have a place in your hearts, give Him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived Him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given. I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!
Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.
His head rests where the cattle have fed.
There are…some who believe that it was likely during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus was born. While we celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, most scholars acknowledge that this tradition was begun in the fourth century AD by the Roman Catholic Church and that the exact day of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Some of the evidence that Jesus might have been born earlier in the year during the Feast of the Tabernacles includes the fact that it would be unlikely for shepherds to still be in the field with their sheep in December, which is in the middle of the winter, but it would have been likely they were in the fields tending sheep at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. The strong possibility that Jesus was born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles is also seen in the words John wrote in John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word John chose to speak of Jesus “dwelling” among us is the word tabernacle, which simply means to “dwell in a tent.”
Got Questions? gotquestions.org, What is the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot? Used by Permission.
Displaying a Christmas nativity scene is a long-standing tradition, but it can also present a bit of a skewed view of the actual events of Jesus’ birth. While each person depicted in a traditional nativity scene is a part of the Christmas story, not all the characters were present in one place on the night Jesus was born. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in a stable that night due to the overcrowding in Bethlehem’s inn (Luke 2:7), but the Bible never mentions whether or not animals were present—in fact, it never even mentions a stable. The shepherds, once told of Jesus’ arrival, left their flocks to worship the newborn King (Luke 2:16). However, the angels, which are often part of nativity scenes, bore the good news to the shepherds in the fields (Luke 2:8–14). As far as we know, there were no angels flying visibly over the place where Jesus was when the shepherds arrived. In addition, the wise men (the Bible never says how many there were) were also probably not present that first night. The magi visited Jesus some time later, when He was in a house (Matthew 2:1–11).