It's no wonder this time of year (when we celebrate so many holidays) is the most wonderful, and magical. Magical you say...?Well...yes, because it is the Grace and Mercy, and the Goodness of God on display, that makes us feel as if something b e y o n d the ordinary--the supernatural--is happening all around us. So join in and sing, praise, and rejoice in this...the Greatest Christmas Present.
About that time, Caesar Augustus, ordered that the first census be taken throughout the Empire. Everyone had to travel to the hometown of their family to complete the census. So, Joseph and his wife, Mary, left Nazareth, a village in Galilee, and journey to their hometown in Judea, to the village of Bethlehem, King David's ancient home. They were required to register there, since they were both direct descendants of David.
JOY TO THE WORLD MEDLEY
When they arrived in Bethlehem Mary went into labor, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the newborn baby in strips of cloth, and Mary and Joseph laid him in a feeding trough since there was no room for them in the household guestroom.
The house where Mary and Joseph found lodging was the ancestral home of King David. And, because of the census, family had traveled to Bethlehem and so the guest bedroom would have been taken.
The guest bedrooms were located on the second floor of the home. On the first floor, this common room was a multi-purpose space. During the day it was a workshop and at night a makeshift stable for the smaller and weaker animals. There was even a stone manger cut into the bedrock for the animals to eat or drink. This is where Mary and Joseph and Jesus was laying and would be a sign of things to come.
IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR
That night, in a field near Bethlehem, shepherds were watching over their flocks. But, these weren't your run-of-the-mill shepherds. Jewish tradition says that the shepherds were priests who were watching over the flocks that night.
In fact, the field they were in was near Bethlehem. And, there was a tower in the field called Migdal Eder--meaning, watchtower of the flock. It was on the lower floor of the watchtower that the birthing of the Passover lambs would take place.
After the birth of the lambs, the priestly shepherds would wrap the lamb in strips of cloth and lay them in a manger, lined with soft hay, to prevent them from hurting themselves.
For, Passover lambs must be unblemished with no bruises or broken bones. It was in this field, and in the tower, that these shepherds were watching over their flock.
ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH
It was an ordinary night really. Nothing to write home about. The sky was ordinary with stars twinkling in the distance. The moon was ordinary...with clouds just floating by.
Everything was swallowed up by the dark, quiet, plain and ordinary night. It was just about as ordinary a night as you can get. There were ordinary sheep and ordinary, sleepy shepherds.
But, were it not for a God who loves to hook an "extra" on the front of the ordinary, the night may have gone unnoticed and the shepherd priests might have slept the night away.
For suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! But, the angel reassured them, saying, "Don't be afraid, for I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And, it is for everyone everywhere! For today, in Bethlehem a Savior was born for you. He is Messiah, the Lord.
COME ON RING THOSE BELLS
Then all at once in the night sky, a vast number of glorious Angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praised God, singing: "Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! Where there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men."
The long-awaited Messiah was born into the realms of men. He would bring us the reconciliation with the Father that was so desperately needed.
O HOLY NIGHT
For today in Bethlehem a Savior is born for you. You will recognize him by this miraculous sign: You will find the baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in the feeding trough!
This miracle sign for these priestly shepherds would be a baby boy lying where the Passover Lamb should be--in a manger...wrapped in strips of cloth. You see, they were part of the animal sacrifice system. The news brought to them by the Angels was BIG news. Animal sacrifices would no longer be needed because the Messiah had been born who would save the world from their sins. He would become the sacrifice for the WHOLE world.
When the choir of angels disappeared and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go! Let's hurry and find this Word who is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us."
So they hurried off and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a feeding trough. Upon seeing this miraculous sign, the shepherd's recounted what had just happened. Everyone who heard the shepherd's story was astonished by what they were told.
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN
A child has been born for us; a son has been given to us. Responsibility of complete dominion will rest on his shoulders, and his name will be: The Wonderful One! Extraordinary Strategist! The Mighty God! The Father of Eternity! The Prince of Peace!
Great and vast is his dominion. He will bring immeasurable peace and prosperity. He will rule on David's throne and over David's Kingdom to establish and uphold it by promoting Justice and Righteousness from this time forward and forever more. The marvelous passion that the Lord Jehovah, commander of Angel armies, has for his people will ensure that it is finished!
BIRTHDAY OF A KING
Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Merry Christmas...no matter how you say it the meaning points to the birth of Christ.
From the foundation of the Earth God had a plan for the redemption of mankind. Though Adam sinned against the Lord and lost the peace and goodwill that God had always intended for us; through Jesus' birth we now have a way back to our heavenly Father.
Even though the world has commercialized the celebration...we know that Jesus is the reason for this joyful season.
JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
An angel from the Lord appeared to him and said, "Joseph, descendant of David, don't hesitate to take Mary into your home as your wife, because the power of the Holy Spirit has conceived a child in her womb. She will give birth to a son and you are to name him Jesus--meaning salvation, restoration, and deliverance--for he is destined to give his life to save his people from their sins."
This happened to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through his prophet: "Listen! A virgin will be pregnant, she will give birth to a son, and he will be known as Emmanuel", which means in Hebrew, "God became one of us".
WHAT CHILD IS THIS
“Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are too little to be among the family groups of Judah. But from you One will come who will rule for Me in Israel. His coming was planned long ago, from the beginning.”
He will give them up until the time when the woman in pain gives birth to a child. Then the rest of His brothers will return to the people of Israel. And He will come and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the great power of the name of the Lord His God. His people will live there and be safe, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. And He will be their peace.
THE SON CAME DOWN
For here's the way God loved the world--he gave his only, unique son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. God did not send his son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be a Savior and rescue it! So now there's no longer any condemnation for those who believe in him....
THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT
In the beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God. They were together--face-to-face, in the very beginning.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Message, the creative Word, and the Living Expression of God made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in incarnated flesh. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has perfectly expressed himself in Christ. Jesus is God's story.
THAT LITTLE BABY
But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant. The shepherds returned to their flock, ecstatic over what had happened. They praised God and glorified him for all they had heard and seen for themselves, just as the angel had said.
"God's living message is very close to you, as close as your own heart beating in your chest and as near as the tongue in your mouth."
And what is God's "living message"? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will experience salvation.
The heart that believes in Him receives the gift of the righteousness of God--and then the mouth confesses resulting in salvation. For the scriptures encourage us with these words:
"Everyone who believes in him will never be disappointed."
MARY'S LITTLE LAMB