What we can learn from the story is obedience changes lives.
When we read about the sheepherders we have to understand they were marginalized people.
Not overly accepted in the towns because of appearance and their dirty jobs.
The majority of people in the villages had nothing to do with them.
They were rough and rugged and very little would terrify them.
We are not told what the angel looked like when it was standing next to them around the fire.
I would imagine it was startling to see someone there.
The sky brilliantly showing choirs of angels and light had to have been startling for them too.
They knew the skies they had seen them every night, but this night was different for them.
I find it interesting the angels sang in the language of the sheepherders; so they could hear and understand the words that were spoken.
What would it have been like to see the angel choir come from heaven and then go back?
When they decided to ‘go see’ this baby born in the manger; we are told they ran as fast as they could.
Now we have to remember, they would never leave their sheep. It was never an option to leave them unprotected, yet we are told that’s what they did.
What can we learn from these rough and rowdy men? They had a deep desire to go see for themselves.
They left to go see Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. Seeing, made them believe and then they became credible witnesses declaring what they saw to everyone in the town.
They spoke with impressionable language and believable attitudes and for the first time others were impressed by them. They had value.
The verse said, [all were impressed] not some, but everyone.
They were sort of like the first missionaries declaring the truth of what they had experienced.
What we can learn from the story is the life changing ability of little baby who is the Savior.
They were marginalized men whose only purpose was to tend to sheep and then they became truth tellers.
Transforming them as their life altering experience took place.
It is all a part of the miracle.
What we can learn from the story is obedience changes lives.
What we can see with our eyes, and believe in our hearts, the road to the stable and delivery was long and hard.
As Mary remembered what had taken place; the Angel Gabriel telling her news that would alter the direction of her life forever.
You can imagine her exhaustion and sadness, for she had left her family and being great with child and weary from traveling.
I am also sure she was overwhelmed with the thought of this little baby boy being someone very special.
Just as the baby that Elizabeth had delivered.
As they rested she probably thought back on the conversations she had shared with Elizabeth and Zachariah.
She remembered how Elizabeth’s baby responded as she spoke a word and how powerful it was in the moment.
Remembering also the reaction of Elizabeth when seeing Mary.
We can imagine that this birth was so life changing and so miraculous both Mary and Joseph could barely take it all in. So much had to have been on her heart and mind.
Then to see the angels glorifying the sky with their presence.
The stars looking more bright with the intensity of light.
The next set of characters to arrive on the scene were the shepherds.
Luke tells us: [there were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood.
They had set night watches over the sheep.
Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them.
They were terrified.
The angel said, “don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.
A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.
This is what you’re to look for; a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises.
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over.
“Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”
They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
Seeing was believing. (This is what we see with our eyes.)
They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child.
All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.
The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they had been told!]
What we don’t really know about the Christmas story.
Mary went with Joseph on the trip to do the census in the town of Bethlehem.
She didn’t have to go as she was not his wife, and the custom was for families to be counted.
[Luke 2: He went with Mary his fiancée, who was pregnant.}
Our Pastor said there were a few ideas why she went with him.
Joseph was told by the angel to name the baby Jesus and if he had gone without her; the baby might have been born before he returned, and the baby might have been named something else.
The other idea was she was so far along Joseph didn’t feel right about leaving her alone, she he took her with him to be close to her.
Another idea was to protect her, for to be pregnant and not married would cause her to be in great harm.
He was saving her life by taking her with him.
Another idea was he had to follow the direction given for them to have a baby in a manger fulfilling the prophecy written.
[6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn.
She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel there.]
Remember this is in the middle of a census which would mean many rooms would be full and many homes not available. We often remember the part of the story about Joseph going door to door asking for a room and the innkeeper said, “there is no room in the inn.”
We don’t really know if that actually happened.
I also read somewhere that if he was to meet family on his side they might have not accepted her, because of her condition.
What we do know, Mary and Joseph was to have their little baby in a quiet little stable among sheep and cows and the smell of hay.
Maybe after being with Elizabeth Mary knew more of what to expect during labor and delivery, there might not have been anyone to help her other than Joseph.
I’m not sure if they tore the donkey’s blanket and made a swaddling cloth for the baby.
Perhaps they packed a few baby item’s just incase they were needing it.
We are not told about the conversations between them, or the discomfort of Mary while traveling.
Anyone who has ever been pregnant in those late months knows how difficult this journey would be for her.
Whether she walked or rode the donkey we know it was not easy or comfortable for her.
We don’t know many things about this Christmas story but we do know it was supposed to take place.
In the little town of Bethlehem so scripture could be fulfilled.
What we wonder about is the next character introduced to us.
Joseph was older than Mary and he was a carpenter.
He was a descendant of King David so the lineage for Jesus would be right and accurate.
He was an honorable and righteous man. I wonder if he had faith and also what kind of conversations did he have with Mary.
We know she went to see and be with Elizabeth. Perhaps it was a way for Joseph to do some thinking.
I would imagine for him to learn she was expecting and not ever being with a man would be hard for him to understand and grasp. It was also a huge responsibility for both of them in that culture.
It really was a serious issue for her to be with child. He could leave her and she could be stoned to death. Then he had a dream from an angel.
[Matthew 1:18-19 The birth of Jesus took place like this.
His mother Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. Joseph, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
20-23 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.
God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is spirit conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you Joseph, will name him Jesus – God saves -because he will save his people from their sins.
24 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream.
He married Mary but they did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby.
He named the baby Jesus.]
I wonder how they both handled this life altering experience, not having a lot of time to process or talk about it together. They had to deal with it right away. During this time Elizabeth gave birth to John and then a census was issued for all people to return to their ancestral towns to register.
They had to go from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town to register.
He traveled with Mary who was pregnant.
The journey was not easy as we will soon find out as we continue this story.
[39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!]
When we read these verses we are amazed that John who was not born but was very much alive inside Elizabeth, heard and knew Mary had arrived and He knew her voice and the truth about her baby filling Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that a prolife powerful statement?
Elizabeth who had known Mary all her life, realized in an instant, She was the mother of Jesus.
The chosen one.
It is both amazing and awesome that the bond between these two women were around the miracles they both were given.
Both were carrying special son’s and both were chosen to do the miraculous.
After hearing and seeing Elizabeth’s reaction Mary’s said this prayer.
[My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me – Holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arms;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.]
What we are amazed by is this: Her response.
She was a very young teen. When told she was going to be the Mother of Jesus she accepted it then she went to the one person she knew who could talk with her.
We are not told about her family, whether she had a set of parents. We are not told if they knew.
We wonder if she was there till John was born to help Elizabeth in her aging condition.
Many things we do not know and are not told. What we do know is this: We are amazed at the miraculous.
Let us continue as we move through the Christmas story.
What we believe to be true about the Christmas story; it was planned way before it actually took place and the players were chosen to complete it.
The next person we are introduced to is Mary.
She was a key player in the story and a wonderful example of simple obedience.
In the New Testament book of Luke;
[26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.
The virgins name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord will give him the throne of his father David.
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will over shadow you. So the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.]
After reading all of this, what we believe to be true.
Mary was a virgin and had not been with a man before. She was chosen and set aside by God who knew the condition of her heart.
Her simple question was not much different than Zechariah’s. “How can this be?”
She was told HOW and he was told to be silent. The answer to Mary was; “even Elizabeth your aging relative is having a baby too.”
I believe that news was making the miraculous more powerful for Mary because she knew Elizabeth’s age.
The preparation of hearts and obedience took place.
Mary had to have many questions. She was very young and she was told she was highly favored by God?
It would be a life altering and changing moment for her.
What we believe to be true: Mary was chosen and because of that choice her life was forever altered.
In a very intense way she was changed forever.
Let us continue to move through the Christmas story.
What we have read about the Christmas story, it does not begin in the New Testament of the Bible.
It actually began in the Old Testament beginning in Genesis; when the word was with God and we read that the word was Jesus.
Then it moves to the book where find Zechariah and Elizabeth as the first key players in the story.
Think of it as act one in a stage play where the first scene builds to the second and the second builds to the third till the whole story is completed.
In the book of Luke 1:7 it tells us about Zechariah and how he was a tribal priest and was chosen with honor to go into the temple for the first time at a very old age to burn incense.
This was a very formal honor and he had waited many long years to be chosen.
[When he went into the temple he was praying and an angel showed up right next to him. When Zechariah saw him he was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call him John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.]
Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, and John would be like a cousin born before Jesus; but paving the way for his ministry. This was told and spoken before either of them were born.
As we continue to read the story:
[Zechariah had doubts and asked the angel, “how can this be? how can I be sure?”]
A logical response and question for they were both beyond the age of child bearing.
[The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, I have been sent to you to speak to you and tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.]
AT THEIR APPOINTED TIME.
Everything was ordained and orchestrated by God in order for the story to be completed.
What we have read is this: Nothing is without purpose or reason.
Each player of the Christmas story was chosen, selected, spoken to and revealed.
Let us continue to see how God in his wisdom created this Christmas story.
What we have been given is a most precious gift of all time.
The Christmas story is one of the most extravagant presents of all.
It is not normally thought of as a gift; but let’s look at the reason behind the thought.
The baby in the manger, was God’s gift. God so loved the world, that He gave, He chose, He declared, His only son to be the hope that would redeem and save us. John 3:16
Isn’t that an amazing extravagant gift?
Even as an adult we later see Jesus entering into a conversation with the woman at the well.
“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
He knew his purpose all along. He knew from the beginning of time he was from the father.
Those who were chosen to participate in this beginning of the story; didn’t have a clue they were to be forever written in history.
It could not be done any other way, God had to have all the players and characters to fulfill the master plan of the nativity.
The word extravagant means exceeding the bounds of reason, going beyond what was deserved or justifiable. We certainly didn’t deserve to be given such a valued gift, but God loved us.
He knew we would need a Savior for we could not save ourselves.
Without the nativity there would be no cross.
It was planned from the beginning that Jesus would come in a way that was not forceful.
A baby was a gentle, tender way of showing His love.
When we see a newborn we move towards it; not away, for it’s sweetness is something we find precious.
As we move through this story we will see this baby in all his innocence and all his ability; to bring others to awareness of more.
What we have been given is a most precious gift. Now the choice is ours to accept it.
The story begins on this day of December 1st.
We start out with our decorations, and music and traditions of this season.
Nativity sets are found and set out on the table, we watch shows on our TV that celebrate the season.
The Christmas story has been told in so many ways, some traditional and some not.
In children’s programs little children dress up as shepherds and wise men joining little Joseph and Mary while holding a doll.
We go to church and see trees decorated in shiny lights and tags for us to purchase for others.
It is the season for giving and for remembering and for singing the carols that touch our souls.
Oh Holy Night is always a favorite and we cannot sing that without visualizing the words we sing.
The beauty and the simple birth. The simple couple who walked a road of unknowns following a path laid out for them by the angel.
It wasn’t easy; for it wasn’t ever meant to be. The journey would be long and exhausting.
It is a story that remains strong for years and years, giving hope and love for us.
The story moved from the Old Testament; to the New Testament fulfilling prophecy that was spoken.
There are many details using many characters to complete what was planned.
The story is about love, and obedience and life and hope.
Every detail was ordained and written so we can see the true miracle as it unfolded.
The story begins as we are told with Mary holding everything near and dear to her heart.
The details were orchestrated long before a baby was born.
It had to happen so that we could know a Savior.
The story tells all the magnitude of what it meant for us.
That God in his master plan would design a way for us to receive salvation and hope.
The way would be through His son. The Christ child, the baby Jesus.
Let us move through this Christmas story and remember God’s love for us through the powerful meaning of the virgin birth.
A baby would be born and he would be named Jesus.
It’s almost the month of December. The time for festivities and family.
Every year we set up an outside nativity for the yard; using a wooden stable built by my husband.
Our original set of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus was stolen out of our yard one year.
It had snowed and there were foot prints all across the front yard where someone walked across it.
They dropped the little sheep and left the cow. So we had an empty stable that year.
I guess that is pretty symbolic of the story, Jesus was missing.
At this time of year often times, He IS missing. People focus on Santa and parties and food to eat.
Jesus remains an important part of the story in fact HE IS the story.
The reason for the season but He is often forgotten.
I was very upset to think someone would steal our nativity.
Then I even wrote a letter to the editor in our local newspaper.
My son was a police officer at the time and he said to me, “mom whoever stole your nativity is not going to read your letter.” Probably true but it made me feel better.
After that Christmas was over I got on line and found a nice outside set on a discount price.
Replacing the cute child like faces that we had before.
I still look at that nativity with a different viewpoint. Someone stole ours.
I didn’t let it steal my feelings for the holiday or desire to decorate. It just was sad.
We had to make sure the new one would not be stolen so my husband now chains together with a lock.
How sad, but we had to figure something out. You can’t see the chain when it’s displayed.
It is just a reality that nothing is safe. I prayed for the person who stole our set.
I wanted them to be blessed and to know that when they display it at their house, the message is still true.
Christmas is about the nativity. It is the story of the season and always will be.