PREPARING FOR JESUS' BIRTH
It is probable that around December 25th most of the worlds six billion plus people are involved in preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is true that many preparations have little or nothing to do with His birth, but the reason for their preparation has as its basis the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago.
Some are preparing to travel and visit loved ones. Some are preparing to host their loved ones who will be visiting. Food lists are being drawn up. Beds are being made ready. Greeting cards are being addressed. Gifts are being purchased. Candies are being made. Homes are being decorated. Parties are being planned and yes, Churches are making special preparations to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
It is also true that the heavenly Father of Jesus made many preparations for His earthly birth.
God Prepared Prophetically
God had revealed that the promised Christ would be "the seed of a woman" (Genesis 3:15); a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3); Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Jacob (Genesis 28:14); of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10); and the family of David (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:34-37). His mother would be a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) the city of His birth would be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and the time of His presentation to Israel would be 483 years after the edict of Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25).
"But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law…" Galatians 4:4.
God Prepared A Forerunner for Jesus
Isaiah had spoken of John the Baptist, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord…" Isaiah 40:3.
The prophet Malachi added these words, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me; and the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight…" Malachi 3:1
God chose an aged priest named Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth to be the parents of John. They had long passed the human ability to bear children when Zacharias was chosen by lot to minister in the holy place. While there the angel of the Lord appeared and said:
"Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John… He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13, 17.
Zacharias responded to this message with unbelief. We suppose he reasoned that he prayed for years to have a son and his prayers were not answered when he was humanly able. How could they be answered now? From our vantage point we can understand that Zacharias and Elizabeth had been ready for decades but God was not ready until the time came for Jesus to be born. The deadness of human ability to conceive children is no problem to God. He had already given the supreme illustration of that with Abraham and Sarah. But for his unbelief Zacharias was struck dumb until John was born.
John became the messenger that went before Jesus and a great host was prepared to receive Jesus as their promised Christ.
God Prepared A Virgin Mother
Isaiah prophesied "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) Matthew states that this verse was fulfilled by the conception of Mary by the Holy Spirit and gives the meaning of Immanuel, "God with us". Jesus was the union of deity with humanity. Can we understand this? No. As Paul wrote, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…"
1st Timothy 3:16. It is best that we simply accept those words spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35
The more we think about Mary's response the more we understand what a godly young lady she was. We know not her academic training but her response leaves no doubt about her humble submission to God's will and her willingness to suffer any consequences as a result of obeying God.
"Be it unto me according to thy word." Mary said this knowing that she would face shame, scorn, and rejection for being found pregnant without a husband. Her espoused husband, Joseph, would also most likely annul their espousal.
Mary had heard that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived. She departed Nazareth of Galilee and journeyed far south to the hill country of Hebron for a visit that would last three months. We can assume that she felt a roller coaster of emotions as she traveled, but as soon as she greeted Elizabeth she received confirmation that she enjoyed blessing from God. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…" Luke 1:42-45. In response, Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…" Mary returned to Nazareth leaving her destiny in the hands of God.
God Prepared A Willing Stepfather
"Mary…was found with child of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18) As soon as Joseph knew he began making plans to sever his espousal to Mary privately. What changed his mind?
I offer one thought as a conjecture. After considering all the preparations God made for the birth of Jesus, I am certain that on a Sabbath Joseph was pondering his course of action in the synagogue. He heard this prophecy lesson for the day, "Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."
Assuredly true was the dream vision Joseph had in which the angel of the Lord appeared and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:20
There is great importance in Joseph taking Mary in marriage. Although Mary was a descendant of David she was not of the royal line. Joseph was, and by taking Mary in marriage he bestowed upon Jesus the legal right to the throne of David. God sent the angel of the Lord to prepare Joseph to do this.
God Prepared A Necessity For Joseph &
Mary to Return to Bethlehem
The prophet Micah had foretold that the Messiah/Christ would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) But Joseph and Mary were settled in Nazareth. How was this prophecy going to be fulfilled?
Solomon had written long before "The king's heart is in the hands of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turns it wherever He wishes".
Proverbs 21:1. The supreme ruler in those days was Caesar Augustus. He made a decree that all the world should be taxed and everyone must return to the city of their ancestors to register.
Joseph and Mary had no choice. Although she was great with child she must mount a donkey and make the long journey to Bethlehem. The night they arrived, Jesus was born.
God Prepared A Star For The Wise Men
The star that suddenly appeared to the wise men has been a perplexing mystery. Some have given naturalistic suggestions such as a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. Others have suggested Haley's Comet or the super nova of a previously faint star. Many have despaired that there is an answer:
The star first led them from east to west; next led them from north to south; then vanished, reappeared, and stood over the very house where Jesus was born.
All these actions by a star add up to a supernatural phenomenon. It helps to understand that the Greek word for star is aster and can refer to "any luminous, non-terrestrial body other than the sun and moon." In our New Testament the words aster and astron are used 28 times but only five times do they refer to a literal star.
The wise men were right in calling it "His star." It was most likely the Shechinah glory of God. This is the glory by which God has shown His presence to men. This is how God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 15:12-18); to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5); to the Israelites as they left Egypt (Exodus 14:19-26); to Israel at Mt Sinai (Exodus 34:5-9) and filled the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple (Exodus 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-13).
It appears the shepherds also beheld this glorious manifestation. "The glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid."
The wise men (magi) were looking for the birth of the King of the Jews. They probably had access to the writings of prophets who were classified "magi". Balaam prophesied
"…there shall come a Star out of Jacob…" Numbers 24:17. Daniel had given a timetable to the presentation of the King (Daniel 9:24-27). When they saw "His star" they made all haste to follow so they could worship Him Who was born King of the Jews. Their lavish gifts financed Joseph and Mary's exile in Egypt.
God Prepared An Angel Choir For The Shepherds
We can understand God preparing a star for the wise men. They were respected, knowledgeable, influential, wealthy and they were seeking. But, why would God send an angel choir to shepherds? They were looked upon as poor and ignorant. Surely God wants us to know that Jesus came to be a Savior to all people…the lowly as well as the noble. Besides, Jesus is "the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He is also
"the good Shepherd…(who) lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11).
And so, in the midst of the blazing glory of God these angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14 N.A.S.B.) These shepherds went immediately to see the baby Jesus. After they left they told everyone they saw about the things they had seen and heard.
God Prepared An Angel Choir For The Shepherds
Was Jesus born just so that we could ring the bells on Christmas day and remember how the angels sang? No, His birth was "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10).
Was it coincidence that Israel had been dispersed throughout the nations and established synagogues in every city "where the Old Testament scriptures were read and preached every Sabbath"
(Acts 15:21)?…or that Alexander had first conquered what was called "the inhabited earth" and left behind a language that was understood by almost everyone?…or that the Roman Empire arose to break down borders between nations; build roads for easy travel and provide a peace that allowed a rapid spread of the gospel of Christ?
No, God prepared for the birth of Jesus and for the gospel story to be shared with the world.
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures Quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted