Saturday, December 25

The Christmas Account: Birth of Christ

The situation with the Romans was becoming increasingly terrifying among the people. Riots and revolts were a constant, and each time the Caesar would tighten his iron grip. The Jewish people, the people of God, who had disobeyed him and thus were enslaved, looked forward to a promised Messiah. When would this promised Messiah finally appear? *This special entry is the account of the Birth of Christ. It has been adapted from Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. (NIV) This entry does not follow the normal style of entries, but has been adapted to provide the account of the events surrounding the birth of the Messiah - again, this is not the full text from the gospels, just an adaptation. End verses from John 1 and John 3:16.

It was sometime between 6-3 BC, most likely about 5/4 BC. Herod was king of Judea in those days. There was a priest named Zechariah, descendant of Aaron. His wife was named Elizabeth, and both were old and past child-bearing age. One day when Zachariah's division was on duty at the Holy Temple, he was chosen by lot to go into the temple and burn incense. The angel Gabriel, who had appeared centuries before to the prophet Daniel, appeared before Zechariah, and said:

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit before he is born. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Elizabeth and Zechariah
Zechariah inquired, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel replied, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time." When Zechariah came out of the temple, he could not speak to the people.

After this, Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months, had remained in seclusion. Now, in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John, God had sent the same angel, Gabriel, to a house in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. He had been sent to Mary, who was a virgin, and was pledged to be married to a carpenter named Joseph. Both were of the line of King David. Gabriel said to her, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was troubled at Gabriel's words, and wondered why he would great someone in such a fashion. The angel quenched her fears. "Do not be afraid, Mary, you found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." To which Mary asked, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relatives going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail." Mary answered, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me according to your word."

After hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary went to a town in the country, where Zechariah and Elizabeth were living. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby John leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb. Three months later, John was born to Elizabeth. On the eighth day after he was born, the relatives wanted to name the baby after Zechariah. However, Elizabeth said, "No! He is to be called John."

So they asked Zechariah what his name would be. He was given a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." His impediments were gone, and immediately he was able to speak again, and he began praising God. Zechariah proceeded to prophesy that John would be the forerunner to the Savior. Mary then returned to Nazareth. Now, having been pregnant a few months, Mary was showing, and Joseph knew he was not the father.

Since Joseph was an honorable man, he had decided to quietly divorce her, and not make it a public spectacle or have her mocked and ridiculed or even stoned - he did not want to disgrace her. But after he had considered doing so, an angel came to Joseph in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

This happened to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, "The virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel," which means, "God with us." Joseph accepted Mary now, and did what the angel had commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, with no shame. However, she remained a virgin, as he would not have union with her until the child was born.

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus
Now, Caesar Augusts had issued a decree that a census be taken of the whole Roman empire, requiring everyone to return to their own town to register. So Joseph and Mary traveled south to the town of Bethlehem - where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, the time came for Jesus to be born, and because there was no guest room available - whether it was an inn or a relatives - the child was born, and he was wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger.

On the outskirts of Bethlehem, there were shepherds keeping watch over their sheep at night. An angel appeared to them and said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a heavenly host of angels appeared and began to praise God and said, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." After the angels had gone into heaven, the shepherds went into Bethlehem and found the Jesus, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The shepherds worshiped him, then went out and spread word about the birth of the Savior - returning thereafter to praise God for all of the things that had transpired.

Eight days after the birth of the baby, he was named Jesus, and he was circumcised. When the time had come for the purification rites from the Law, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem, and to offer a pair of doves or two young pigeons. Now there was a man named Simeon who was very devout. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Impressed upon by the Holy Spirit, he entered the temple courts that day, and when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in to fulfill the custom of the Law of Moses.

When Simeon saw Jesus, he took him into his arms and praised God, and said, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." Simeon turned to Mary and said, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

A prophet named Anna, who was very old and had lived with her husband for seven years and became a widow and had remained so for eighty-four years, had never left the temple but would worship day and night, and conversely. When she saw Jesus, Anna gave thanks and praised God. Sometime in the next two years, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, magi (who are wise men, astronomers) from the east came to Jerusalem.

They 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." King Herod, having heard this, inquired of his priests and teachers of the law what prophecies said regarding the location of the birth of the Messiah - they confirmed it to be Bethlehem. King Herod called the magi secretly and learned from them the exact time that the star had appeared, which was about two years prior.

Herod said to the magi, who were at least two in number but may have been more, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After the magi left Jerusalem, the star arose in the sky again, and it stopped over the house where the child, Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, were. Upon entering, the magi bowed down and worshiped him, and opened their treasures: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The magi were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, so they returned to their country by another way.

After the magi left, an angel said to Joseph in a dream, "Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." Joseph and Mary took Jesus and fled to Egypt, fulfilling the prophecy of Hosea, "Out of Egypt I called my son." When King Herod realized that the magi had outwitted him, he was angry, and gave orders to have every male two years and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity killed. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

When Herod died, the angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream and said unto him, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." Joseph took Mary and Joseph and returned to Israel, but having heard that Archelaus was reigning in place of his father, King Herod, he was afraid to go there, so withdrew to Nazareth in Galilee.

This is the account of the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus, the Son of God, who died for the sins of humanity. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save the world. Jesus Christ made a living as a carpenter in Nazareth until the age of 30, when he began his three-year ministry. At the end of this ministry, Jesus was willingly arrested by the Jewish authorities, and, after a trial, was beaten, scarred, despised, having been pierced for the transgressions of mankind, oppressed and afflicted, and bore the sins of all. He was sentenced to death by crucifixion, and hung on a cross, an innocent, and shed his blood to atone for your sins. But that was not the end.

Three days after his death, he rose from the dead, in a glorified state. Jesus appeared to his disciples and a little over 500 witnesses after his resurrection, and forty days after his resurrection, with his twelve disciples such as Peter, James, and John watching, he ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God. This same savior has promised to return for those who choose to follow him, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior, and believe that he died and rose again - as well as having asked for forgiveness of their sins, in this sin-filled world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. You see, in the beginning was the Word - Jesus, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

May the grace of the Lord Christ Jesus be with you. Have a Merry Christmas, and may God bless. Troy Hillman

*Feel free to comment, email, or visit the facebook.Photo credit goes to Paramount Pictures, "The Nativity Story," 2006.

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