Christmas 2014 - The Real Christmas Story

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

THE REAL CHRISTMAS STORY

INTRODUCTION:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land, people were hurrying and scurrying with their last minute shopping in keeping with what they believe is the real spirit of Christmas.

However, it is my observation that the real story of Christmas is being crowded out by an increased secularism, commercialization, and the false god of Christmas.

For this reason, it seems good to me that we remind ourselves of the real meaning of Christmas. It is a celebration of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though He was not likely born on December 25, it is a day which has been set aside by Christians for centuries to celebrate His birth.

I. JESUS' BIRTH WAS ANNOUNCED TO MARY - Luke 1:26-38

(26) And in the sixth month [i.e. the sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

(27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

(28) And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured [i.e. filled with grace, meaning especially privileged], the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

(29) And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind [i.e. was pondering] what manner of salutation [or greeting] this should be.

(30) And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

(31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son [a son implies that He would be a real human being], and shalt call his name Jesus [i.e. He is the Savior Who will save His people from their sins].

(32) He shall be great [i.e. in His person and work], and shall be called the Son of the Highest [i.e. the Son of God]: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David [i.e. It means that He is the promised Messiah.]:

(33) And he shall reign over the house of Jacob [i.e. over Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end [i.e. He will reign over Israel forever - The reason this promise is not being fulfilled at the present time is because the church is not the house of Jacob.].

(34) Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? [This was an honest question and was not a matter of doubt as was Zacharias' question in Luke 1:20 . It amounts to, "How is God going to bring this about?"].

(35) And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee indicates that the Incarnation of Christ was accomplished by this creative act of the God Holy Spirit in the body of Mary. The Virgin Birth of Christ was a special miracle performed by God the Holy Spirit, by which Christ, the eternal Son of God, took to Himself a genuine, though sinless, human nature and was born as a man, without surrendering any aspect of His deity.

(36) And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

(37) For with God nothing shall be impossible.

(38) And Mary said, Behold the handmaid [i.e. female slave] of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

II. JESUS' BIRTH WAS ANNOUNCED TO JOSEPH - Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew 1:18-23 - The fact that Jesus was born "of Mary" only, as indicated in the genealogical record of Matthew 1:16 , demanded further explanation. Matthew's explanation can be best understood in the light of Hebrew marriage customs. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his parents for one year. The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity given concerning the bride. If she was found to be with child in this period, she obviously was not pure, but had been involved in an unfaithful sexual relationship. Therefore the marriage could be annulled. If, however, the one-year waiting period demonstrated the purity of the bride, the husband would then go to the house of the bride's parents and, in a grand processional march, lead his bride back to his home. There they would begin to live together as husband and wife and consummate their marriage physically. Matthew's story should be read with this background in mind.

Mary and Joseph were in the one-year waiting period when Mary was found to be with child. They had never had sexual intercourse and Mary herself had been faithful (vv. 20, 23). While little is said about Joseph, one can imagine how his heart must have broken. He genuinely loved Mary, and yet the word came that she was pregnant. His love for her was demonstrated by his actions. He chose not to create a public scandal by exposing her condition to the judges at the city gate. Such an act could have resulted in Mary's death by stoning. Instead he decided to divorce her quietly (The Bible Knowledge Commentary).

(18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

(19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Her husband. Although Joseph and Mary were not yet married, so sacred was the year of engagement, or betrothal, that they were by custom considered as if married. Consequently, Joseph's only recourse seemed to be to "put her away," which meant to give her a bill of divorce, a certificate saying, in effect, "This woman is not my wife; I am not her husband." (Ryrie Study Bible)

(20) But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

(21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

(22) Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

(23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

(24) Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

(25) And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

As soon as Joseph awakened from this dream, he obeyed. He violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Joseph was probably thinking of what would be best for Mary in her condition. He brought her home and began to care and provide for her. There was no sexual relationship between them until after the birth of this Child Jesus.

There would be misunderstanding in the community and gossip at the well, but Joseph knew the true story of Mary's pregnancy and God's will for his life.

Knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son disproves the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary which Roman Catholicism has taught.

Jesus' siblings were half brothers and half sisters, since Mary had no sexual relations with Joseph until after Jesus' birth. They were not cousins as Roman Catholicism has taught.

III. JESUS' BIRTH OCCURRED IN BETHLEHEM - Luke 2:1-7

But Mary and Joseph were in Nazareth in Galilee. How would they be in Bethlehem in Judea at just the right time when Mary would give birth to Jesus? God used the Roman emperor to accomplish this.

(1) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

Caesar Augustus reigned from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14.

Should be taxed refers to a census of all the Roman world.

(2) (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Cyrenius was apparently governor of Syria twice: from 4 B.C. to A.D. 1, when this census was taken, and again in A.D. 6-10.

(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:)

Unto ... Bethlehem. Why Bethlehem? To fulfill the prophecy of Mic. 5:2.

Micah 5:2 - But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

(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 [i.e. Strips of cloth wrapped around an infant in the Near East in Bible times to hold its legs and arms still], and laid him in a manger [A feeding trough for animals in a stall or stable. Tradition says that Jesus was born in a cave, in which case the manger may have been cut out of a rock wall.]; because there was no room for them in the inn.

IV. JESUS' BIRTH WAS ANNOUNCED TO SHEPHERDS - Luke 2:8-20

(8) And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

In the field does not give any indication of the time of year Jesus was born because animals used for sacrifices were kept in the fields all year. The date of Christ's birth is unknown. December 25 was first mentioned in the fourth century.

(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 [i.e. greatly afraid or terrified].

(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.

Three titles were given to Jesus in the angel's announcement: He was Saviour, He was Christ (i.e. Messiah, anointed One), and He was Lord (i.e. Yahweh, or God). He was both God and man.

(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 [i.e. among men with whom He is pleased. The peace promised is not given universally to men who possess good will toward God but individually to men who are the recipients of His favor and grace.].

(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.

(16) And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger [i.e. a feeding trough].

(17) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

(18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

(19) But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

(20) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

V. JESUS' INFANCY IN BETHLEHEM - THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN - Matthew 2:1-12

(1) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea [located five miles south of Jerusalem] in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Herod the king is Herod the Great, whose family, though nominally Jewish, was in reality Edomite. He was king, with Roman help, from 37 to 4 B.C. He built the Temple in Jerusalem that Christ knew. Thus, Jesus could not have been born after 4 B.C.; and since Herod would have the babies from two years and under killed, Jesus must have been born somewhere between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C. However, it had to be closer to 4 B.C. because Cyrenius did not become governor until 4 B.C.

Wise men. These magi from the east were experts in the study of the stars. Tradition says that there were three and that they were kings, but we do not know this for certain.

(2) Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

(3) When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

(4) And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

It is interesting that Herod connected the One "born king of the Jews" in verse 2 with "the Christ" (or the Messiah in verse 4).

Scribes, who belonged mainly to the party of the Pharisees, functioned as members of a highly honored profession. They were professional students and defenders of the law (both scriptural and traditional), gathering around them pupils whom they instructed in the law. They were also referred to as lawyers because they were entrusted with the administration of the law as judges in the Sanhedrin.

(5) And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

(6) And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor [It means an earthly king, though a supernatural one.], that shall rule my people Israel.

(7) Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

(8) And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

(9) When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

The star reappeared and led them to the exact house in Bethlehem.

"Stars" (i.e. planets) naturally travel from east to west across the heavens, not from north to south. Could it be that "the star" which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God? That same glory had led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years as a pillar of fire and cloud. Perhaps this was what they saw in the East, and for want of a better term they called it a "star." All other efforts to explain this star are inadequate (such as a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars; a supernova; a comet; etc.).

(10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

(11) And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Note that the wise men worshiped Jesus. They did not worship Mary or Joseph.

Some believe the gifts had further significance by reflecting on the character of this Child's life. Gold might represent His deity or purity, frankincense the fragrance of His life, and myrrh His sacrifice and death (myrrh was used for embalming). These gifts may well have been the means by which Joseph took his family to Egypt and sustained them there until Herod died.

Into the house ... the young child. These words need not indicate that the wise men came some time after the birth of Christ. The family would naturally have moved into a house as quickly as possible after Jesus was born, and "young child" can mean a newborn.

(12) And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

VI. JESUS' INFANCY IN EGYPT - INFANTS MURDERED IN BETHLEHEM AREA - Matthew 2:13-18

(13) And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

(14) When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

(15) And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Hosea 11:1 relates Out of Egypt have I called my son to the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Matthew, however, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, applies it to Christ.

(16) Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Although Jesus was apparently younger than two years of age, Herod expanded the age group because he wanted to take no chances that he would kill Him with this group of babies.

(17) Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

(18) In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Verse 18 quotes Jeremiah 31:15 , which depicts the wailing at the time of Israel's exile. That calamity and also Herod's new atrocity are viewed as part of the same broad picture. Rachel represents the nation of Israel. She had been buried in Ramah near Bethlehem where the massacre took place. Rachel was considered by many to be the mother of the nation. This is why she was seen weeping over these children's deaths.

CONCLUSION:

Even though we celebrate the Babe in the Manger on Christmas day, we remind ourselves that the Babe in the Manger came for the purpose of being the Christ on the Cross Who would die there, shedding His blood in payment for the sins of all humanity and that He would then rise again from the dead on the third day as proof that God had accepted His sacrifice on our behalf.

So, while we give thanks for His incarnation, we also give thanks for the salvation He has provided for those who believe the gospel message.