The story of the Nativity is not the tale of the journeys of a young man and pregnant girl traveling to the town of Bethlehem. It is not an account of the hardships they faced when they could not find suitable housing, nor a sterile hospital to give birth. It is not the story of the shepherds and their encounter with angels, nor is it about the voyage of the Magi and the gifts they brought to the newborn King. It is not about lawn ornaments in our front yards or how we arrange our decorative statues inside our homes that depict the Nativity.
When all is said and done none of these are the reason for Christmas and the story of the Nativity. Does this mean that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi are not important to the story? Does this mean that it is wrong to put up our displays for all to see? Absolutely not! The characters are imperative to the story (it could not have happened without them) and believe it or not our lawn ornaments and decorations can help us share the Good News of Jesus Christ to our unbelieving neighbors and friends. But they are not the main point.
The main points of the Nativity are God’s act of humility and His faithfulness in keeping promises. Today we will see these two realities of the Nativity evident in our New Testament and Old Testament passages as we continue in our series titled Christmas Prophecy.
The Nativity: God’s Acts of Humility and Promise Keeping
Today we will begin in the New Testament passage found in Matthew 2:1 – 8
Matthew 2:1 – 8
In this passage we meet a group of men known as the Magi, or commonly known as the wise men, who came to Jerusalem. These New Testament Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, concluded that the birth of a great Jewish king was at hand. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to Bethlehem to pay homage.
The Magi originally came to Jerusalem to seek out this king who was to be born. They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah because it is believed the prophet Daniel was a prince and chief among this very class of wise men or Magi. His prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when the Messiah should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.
The Magi came to Jerusalem as they followed the “Christmas star.” They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. Herod was unaware of this newborn King and honestly, he was quite threatened by the idea that a new king was born. Thus, he inquired of the Chief Priests, and they concluded that the King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem since it was prophesied in Micah 5:2.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.
Bethlehem is a small town in the hill country of Judah, and it is most noted as the burial site of the matriarch Rachel(Jacob’s wife) and the birthplace of King David. Bethlehem was a small and insignificant village. Its biblical significance derives mainly from its status as David’s hometown. As the “city of David,” it was also prophesied as the birthplace of the future messianic ruler who would come as a new David.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.”
I am amazed when I consider the creator of all things coming to earth in human flesh. One would think everything about his entrance would be a spectacle and his birth would be heralded among all the nations. The truth is, everything about our savior, his birth, life, and death point to humility and serving others. Isn’t this really what Christmas is about? We are called to serving one another in humility and share the message of hope and joy to the world through Jesus Christ? Wesley Hill writes, “The mighty Son of God, who together with his Father, brought creation into being, subsequently designed to become a lowly human being-the equivalent of a powerful monarch being reduced to a scuttling beetle.”
Jesus’ life began and ended in humility. One would think when God himself came to this earth it would have been to straighten humanity out and set things on the right course, but it was much more than that. We do know that Jesus had a destiny. If you look back in Luke 1:29 - 33 you can see his destiny. The angel proclaims that Jesus will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, He will received the throne of David and reign over all of Israel and there shall be no end to His kingdom. Before we can recognize Him as the King of Kings and Prince of peace, we need to grasp the humility of God in the flesh. While on this earth, He was God in the flesh living a life of humility showing others the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is nothing spectacular about Jesus’ entrance into this world. Christmas begins with our Great and Mighty God coming in the flesh as a baby… a weak, helpless, and needy infant. Not a strong warrior, but a baby. He was born in this little town called Bethlehem and it was an insignificant town as Micah 5:2 prophesies, it is so insignificant that it is not even listed in the list of Judah’s towns in Joshua 15. Not only was he born a little weak baby in an insignificant town, he was born to a simple carpenter and a young teenage mother in a smelly, unsanitary cave. Then to top it off the angels did not proclaim the birth of the savior of the world. Instead, the proclaimed Savior’s entrance into this world is announced to a group of Shepherds. Yes, smelly, stinky, and insignificant shepherds! Don’t you think Jesus could have had better PR than that? Wouldn’t it have been better announcing the birth to the city of Jerusalem? No, God chose shepherds.
Ok, so he had a rather humble beginning to life, certainly things will get better as he gets older right? Take a quick glance at Jesus’ life and you will see the opposite is true. First, Jesus was tempted by Satan as an average ordinary man. You can read the account in Matthew 4. Why was he tempted? Isn’t He God? Couldn’t He have just told Satan to take a hike and got on with his life? Hebrews 4 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." He was tempted so he could sympathize in our weaknesses and yet show us that we do not need to give in to temptation. Why would a king allow this to happen if He didn’t truly love and care for his people? Secondly, Jesus was a carpenter from an average family. Mark 6:3 says the people questioned Jesus’ wisdom by asking, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. The leader’s question implied, “He is a common laborer like the rest of us.” All His immediate family—mother, brothers, and sisters—were known to the townspeople, and they were ordinary people. Thirdly, we see Jesus’ humility in the fact that He didn’t even have a home. Look at Matthew 8:20 when a Scribe told Jesus He would do whatever it takes to follow Jesus he responded, "And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”" He could have lived in mansions created for glory or even a semi decent house, but the Bible tells us that He had no home. Fourthly, there was a moment when Jesus accepted worship as a King however, it wasn’t as a valiant knight riding on a white steed parading into town as a victorious warrior. No, He came into town on a colt, a simple work colt. Fifth, he referred to himself as a servant and a servant King is what He was. In Philippians 2:5 – 7 it says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." This tells us a lot about Jesus Christ. He made himself nothing and became a servant. How many leaders or kings do you know who practice this type of humility or even believe it’s their calling in life? Lastly, we see the humility of Christ in the way He died. He did not die of old age or die during battle as a warrior. No, He was crucified and died an excruciating, painful and dishonorable death. The fact that He gave himself over to death is an act of humility. He has the power to defeat death and yet, he became subservient to it. Yet He did this because this was the plan from the beginning.
God’s Promise Kept
“…Yet a ruler of Israel whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”
Our God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. I love what Matthew D. Kim writes in his devotional, THE BABY KING, “God is a covenant -keeping God. And nothing will stand in the way of his promised miracle… God is zealous to keep his covenant.” We are told time and again that God is trustworthy. This should be comforting and assuring to all of us since the Bible is filled with the promises by God to His people. Among all the promises of the God our hope of salvation is based on the promises made by God. The prophet Joel writes regarding the last days that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) Jesus tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We know these promises are true because God is faithful to keep them. We are also told in Numbers 23:9 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” I take great comfort in these verses.
Jesus was born in humility and lived a life as a carpenter, a servant, who was tempted to sin yet not yield to it. He had no home. He was eventually hailed as the Messiah but on the back of a donkey. He was killed a week later as He hung on a cross. I think we can see and understand that our Lord lived a life of humility on this earth.
Today Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and will someday return as a triumphant King. He is the fulfillment of the great promise of God. He will come and save his people fro0m destruction and show everyone the way to life. Jesus shows that all who confess and repent of their sins and believe in faith that Jesus is Lord will not receive death, but life everlasting.
What does this show us today? As we enter the Christmas season, let us rejoice in the promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ and humbly serve one another in the name of Jesus Christ. Truly seek out ways that you can serve someone in His name. I am not sure how you will do it, but it could be as simple as assisting someone who is less fortunate or buying a gift for a child whose parent(s) are incarcerated or dropping off some cookies to a neighbor. Be creative and serve others in humility in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Joy to the world the Lord has come. Let us rejoice and worship our King.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.