POST ADVENT Story Revealed part 18

RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN

We come to the hardest part of the Christmas story. It is rarely told around the Christmas tree for it depicted a dark event. But I believe it should be told, the reason for which I will explain later.

So, let us take a closer look at Herod the Great.

Though Herod was king of Judea, he was not a Jew. He was actually a puppet-king of Rome. Herod was not loved by the Jews but he gained their grudging respect mostly because he rennovated their Temple. One other thing about him was that he was extremely power hungry and not willing to share it. So, when the Magi from the east came looking for the new King of the Jews, the despot in him wanted Jesus dead and he’ll do anything to get it done.

Now, the Magi found the Christ child and we will pick-up the story from here.

Matthew 2:12,16
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

This horrendous event was actually foretold.

Matthew 2:17-18
Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”

Ramah, by the way, is the area of Bethlehem.

Anyway, what happened to Jesus?

Matthew 2:13-14
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

So, let’s get back to why I believe this part of the story should be told around the Christmas tree; yes… even to little kids. How can kids and adults really appreciate the light unless they realize that darkness affect them.

What Herod did was an aftereffect of the original sin. Our history is filled with it. We are constantly surrounded by the darkness of sin.

One thing about darkness though, it cannot stand up to light. And Jesus, even as a child, escaping to Egypt is a big light piercing that darkness.

For that child grew and 33 years later, He said…

John 8:12
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Christmas Season is over again but the light of Jesus is there. All you have to do is walk in it. How?

B E L I E V E

POST ADVENT Story Revealed part 17

Gifts of Destiny

Matthew 2:10-11
When the Magi saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Before we talk about the gifts of the Magi, allow me to reveal that every reenactments of the nativity I’ve watched were not exactly accurate, biblically that is. Based on the Bible, when the Magi came before Jesus, he was not a baby anymore. The Greek word used for ‘Child’ here was PAIDION which means an infant between the age of 6 months and older. Clearly, upon their arrival, Joseph and Mary had upgraded their living situation from the animal pens to a house of their own. It makes sense. The census would be over by then and the population of Bethlehem would decrease back to normal. Joseph decided to stay in Bethlehem and moved his family to an available house or he built one. Afterall, he was a carpenter and mason. Either way, they were in a house.

So, when the Magi laid their eyes on the Child Jesus, they being from the eastern kingdoms of Persia, Medes and Babylon prostrated themselves before someone considered as a Great One worthy of divine worship.

If Joseph and Mary were not already surprised and a little bit perplexed, the Magi presented gifts that in all their lives they have never seen; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. From Joseph’s & Mary’s perspective, they were probably only aware of the gift’s monetary value. I wonder if they truly understood that the gifts had meaning and was intrinsically tied to Jesus’ Destiny.

Gift of GOLD

In those days, Gold had the greatest monetory value among the rare elements of the earth and was mostly given exclusively to royalty. So, was Jesus royal enough for the gift of gold?

Revelation 17:14
These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He (Jesus) is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”
Revelation 19:16
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Gift of FRANKINCENSE

What exactly is frankincense? It is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. More importantly, it was the incense used by the priests of Israel in the Holy Temple. A few times in the year, a priest was chosen to enter ‘the Holy Place’, the biggest chamber of Israel’s Temple, to burn incense on the Altar of Incense as a way of presenting the prayers of the people to God. So, why did the Magi present frankincense?

Jesus is not just the King of kings, He is also the Priest of all priests.

Zechariah 6:13
Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’
Hebrews 5:6
…just as He says also in another passage, “You (Jesus) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Melchizedek was the ancient king and high priest of Salem during Abraham’s time.

Gift of MYRRH

Myrrh has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. It’s monetory value was high, but you have to wonder what is its connection to Jesus in this context? It will be interesting to note that as Jesus was being buried after his death on the cross, his body was prepared for burial with spices and myrrh.

Was Myrrh given to honor His death?

Well, not so much his death but more to honor His sacrifice.

John 1:29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Matthew 20:28
Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (as sacrifice), that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

POST ADVENT Story Revealed part 16

“A Star, A Star… Shining in the Sky”

The Bethlehem Star is represented in practically every Christmas decoration through out the world. Just look at most Christmas trees and you’ll find at its crown a sparkling star. In nativities, you’ll find a star above. In the Philippines, the ornamental lantern parol which can be found outside every building and house represent the star of Bethlehem.

Some say that the Bethlehem Star was a comet or a distant supernova. There are many theories. But what does the Bible say?

Matthew 2:2-10
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Let us talk about the star. Now, I will not focus on exactly what the magi saw in great detail. At the end of this article is a link to a Youtube video which I found intriguing and uplifting. I hope you would watch it after.

For this article, we will focus on the biblical aspects.

vs2 – …we saw His star in the east…

In our last post, we identified the magi as being astrologers/astronomers. When they said they saw his star in the east it is a funny statement because all stars rise on the east because of the earth’s clockwise rotation. So, what did they really see to cause them to travel to a distant foreign country?

As astronomers they would have developed a discipline of observing and plotting the stars’ relative positions. Keep in mind that the magi plotted what visible to the naked eye (because telescopes were not yet invented) and utilizing primitive tools.

The majority of the night sky were stars that were relatively stationary. Among those stationary twinkling lights are grouping of stars that form recognizable patterns. They are called constellations. Each constellation were assigned a name based on its apparent form. For example, a group of stars in the shape that looks like the head and horns of a bull with an angry red eye is the constellation Taurus.

Not all stars were stationary. The night sky also had objects that move, though at most times these objects were hardly noticeable to the common eye except for the magi and their like. I’m not talking about the moon or shooting stars. I’m talking about planets. One particular planet interested the magi at the time of Jesus’ birth. It was the planet Jupiter – the king planet.

I wish I can spend the time to tell all about what they may have observed about Jupiter and it’s movement. (Watch the video below.) What I will say is that at the time of Jesus’ birth, Jupiter rose in the east appearing at the extended paw of the great constellation Leo, the lion, which was also another symbol of king. As many nights past, the magi plotted the movements of Jupiter as it traversed up and down on Leo’s paw like it was holding something significant. To the magi, it was enough for them to scour through Scripture (I believe). And I think they would have found, at least, this biblical reference.

Genesis 49:9-10
Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

How does this connect? If you draw a line following the plotting of Jupiter’s movements that went up and down on Leo’s paw. It would look like Leo or the Lion of Judah receiving the royal scepter. By the way, by biblical reference, Jesus, the Son of God, is ultimately the Lion of Judah.

Some may argue that the star they followed could have been a comet or something visibly spectacular. All I can say is that the Bible says otherwise.

Look at the reaction of Herod in Matthew 2:3 when the magi asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (vs2).

vs3 – When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

If there was a comet or any cosmic spectacle in the night sky, Herod and his own wise men of Jerusalem would have taken heed. But instead he was quite surprised and troubled mainly more because they inquired about another King of the Jews.

What about the star that led them to Bethlehem? Did it really stop over where the child was according to verse 9? For myself, I have no problem of believing that the movement of Jupiter led them directly to the house that Jesus was in. If you watch the video below, you’ll get to watch exactly what Jupiter did to fulfill this. It is quite spectacular.

I want to pause this blog for us to take note on the rightful reaction of the magi when they saw the star.

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

I think when we gaze into the night sky, we should consider the psalm and rejoice.

Psalm 19:1-2
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

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POST ADVENT Story Revealed part 15

Magi from the East

Again… in every Nativity movie and Christmas Pageant I have seen, the Three Kings or Wise men from the East would arrive in their lumbering camels just right after Jesus’ birth in the stable. On the golden screens, they followed a visible and very bright star on the night sky. That same star would also send down a single ray of golden sparkling light to pin point the spot of where the babe was born. The movies always made it look so magical. That’s Hollywood for you. But what does the Bible really say?

Matthew 2:1-2
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

Of course, the obvious question should start with… Who were the magi?

In a nutshell, they were the astrologers of the time. They intensely studied the movements and relative positions of celestial objects to gain divine information which they apply into human affairs. This is clearly supported in verse 2. That is, they interpreted something in the appearance of a star or stars which compelled them to travel from a distant land in the east to Jerusalem. What compelled them? They were inspired that God himself will be there. Their impulse was to worship.

Why were they called kings?

Tradition had labeled them kings based on these passages in the book of the Prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 60:1,3,6
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the LORD.”

How did the Magi know that the babe was to be King of the Jews?

Some have suggested that the Prophet Daniel may be behind this. You may remember him as the one being cast into the lions’ den and God protected him (Daniel 6). During the time when Judea fell to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, Israel were exiled to the east. That was about 500 years or so before the birth of Christ. Among the exiles were youths from among the royal family and of the nobles of Israel.

Daniel 1:3-4
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

Among those youths was Daniel. To make a long story short, God had made Daniel very special in the king’s eyes. Because of a mysterious dream that God placed in the mighty king’s mind and Daniel was only one who could interpreted it, King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). (You can read the entire story in Daniel 2.)

The descendants of these wise men, the magi, had protected copies of Daniels written prophesies. It is suggested that when they saw certain signs in the stars that they scoured through his writings and by some divine inspiration they came upon the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

In the next post, we will look at the star that the magi followed.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 14

What Simeon Saw

Forty days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. They did that in accordance to the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”. (Luke 2:23)

Luke 2:25-33
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

Why were they amazed?

  • It was not so much that Simeon foretold new things respecting the Child Jesus that they marveled; their surprise was rather that a stranger, evidently of position and learning, should possess so deep an insight into the lofty destinies of an unknown Infant, brought by evidently poor parents into the temple court. [Pulpit Commentary Biblehub.com]
Luke 2:34-35
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Have you ever wondered why this part of the Advent story is rarely spoken around a Christmas dinner or during the early morning openings of presents? Even in every children’s production of the Christmas Pageant, there is not even a hint of it. For if you did include it, then the subject of what Simeon saw in this child would have to come up.

What did Simeon see?

He saw this holy child grow up into a man who would be rejected.

Isaiah 53:3
He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

He saw this child grow up into a man (who was without sin) die for our sins.

Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

I can understand why parents want to leave this part out? For who wants to hear that the only reason for Jesus’ birth was that he was born to be sacrificed like a slaughtered lamb on the cross?

But the TRUTH is, without the cross His birth has no meaning and no real reason to celebrate Christmas. By the way, as a reminder, Jesus did resurrect and that is even more reason to celebrate Christmas.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 13

The Call of the Shepherd

Luke 2:8-9
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…

It is the day after Christmas and my thoughts lingered on the shepherds who were priviliged to be visited by an angel and instructed to seek the babe who would be the Savior of the world. I can imagine them coming together on the hillsides after watching a cascade of fiery angels lighting up the night sky and filling them with awe. I can just see them all wanting to head into the sleepy town of Bethlehem, but then some of the older shepherds hesitated to leave their flocks alone. So, some relunctantly stayed with the promise that they will be later relieved to seek out the Christ child also. Most eagerly rushed down the darkened hillside. They split up to scoure the overcrowded town, waking up the households with new born babes. There were probably a number of irated parents that night. For the shepherds woke them up and insisted to see their new born but quickly left because they have yet to find the new born in swaddling clothes laid in a manger. Of course, they found the house where Mary gave birth inside the empty animal pens. One of them blew a ram’s horn to signal the other searchers that the right babe was found. When asked of why this large group of shepherds came asking about Mary’s new born, they made known to them the statement which had been told them about this Child. When they eventually left…

Luke 2:20
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

You know, shepherds were not highly thought of by the big wigs of that time. But God loves them. In the Old Testament, God favored them. Look up the stories of Abel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were all shepherds. One shepherd in particular was so favored by God that he became Israel’s greatest king. He contributed a fair number of songs (psalms) in the Bible one of which was about ‘The Shepherd’ of them all.

Psalm 23:1-6 (A Psalm of David)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

I know why God sent the angel to appear to the sheherds first. You see, He desires us to be shepherds just like them. I don’t mean literal shepherds but spiritual ones.

Like Jesus…

John 10:14-15
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Then we should…

Acts 20:28
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And…

1 Peter 5:1-4
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

As to The Shepherd who look over us…

Psalm 79:13
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 12

Why the Angels Celebrated?

Jesus was born. As he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger, something was happening at the nearby hills.

Luke 2:8-16
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

Who truly was this child that inspired the angels to light up the sky with their fanfare?

Isaiah revealed His identity…

Isaiah 7:14
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”.

Immanuel means ‘God with us’.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Apostle John said this…

John 1:1,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Read the words of a better storyteller than me, Max Lucado.

It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.

God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.

God had come near.

He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty.

No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.

Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts. (Max Lucado Christmas article)

Wow! Join me and repeat the words of the angels.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

ADVENT Story Revealed part 11

Tradition or What the Bible Really Say

As far as I can remember, in every traditional Christmas story heard, read and viewed, I always found Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveling to Bethlehem on a skinny donkey. When they arrive, they find no public inn available because of over-crowding except for a space in a stable already inhabited by a cow, a donkey and some sheep. Just as Mary was about to give birth, the Bethlehem Star would burst through a hole in the roof to shine upon the newly born baby Jesus. Then shepherds would come first then the three wise men.

This version of the Christmas Nativity story, according to tradition, was first illustrated like this during the Dark Ages by the legendary, Francis of Assisi.

I must admit that I had always found this version quite magical but was it biblical? I mean, was it presented the way the Lord God intended? Let us see…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

The verses above only narrated the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no other clear description on what was their mode of transportation or the conditions of the journey.

It may be that they did travel by donkey as tradition suggests. However, there are other considerations found in Scripture that may add to their journey story.

Nazareth is found in the region of Galilee which is about 80 miles as the crows flies to Bethlehem. At most traveling there by donkey using the established roads would take about 3 days trip. But Joseph and Mary being Jews were faced with a more arduous journey. Why? Let’s look at this map of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Joseph and Mary could not take the shorter and more direct route because to do so, they would have to travel through the region of Samaria. Jews avoid travelling through Samaritan territory. Why? The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews. [To fully understand the enmity between these two people, you can open your Bible in several books of the Old Testament.]

So, what would be their route? Let’s look at the map again.

As Jews, they would have skirted the Samaritan territory by taking the much more longer and risky route. This would mean at least a week’s journey time through hazardous country. Considering this added information, I really doubted that Mary could have ridden on the bony back of an ass 20 miles a day for a week or so. More than likely, she rode on a cart accompanied with other folks making the same trek to Judea.

So, they reached Bethlehem…

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the stories told and the movies I watched, Mary and Joseph always arrived in despiration to find lodgings because of extreme labor pains. But if you consider closely the words of Luke 2:6, ‘While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.’ I believe that what was implied was that they were already in Bethlehem for at least a day or so.

How about Jesus being born in a stable because there was no more room in the inn?

People got the idea of the stable mainly because the baby was laid in a manger. Understandable but in truth, not exactly accurate. Where the Bible only offered conjecture, archaeology may shed some light.

Based on archaeological digs in Bethlehem, the average houses looked almost like the image below.

What they unearth was that inside the house was an area for living, eating and sleeping. This living area part was on a large raised platform. The sunken area was reserved mostly for the household’s livestock which were usually kept indoors during the winter time.

Mary (in all probability) gave birth in the sunken area of a first century Bethleheman house which probably belonged to the kin of Joseph who readily took them in. By the way, the ‘inn’, in actuality, is usually the upper room or guest room built on the roof which was already occupied by another kin folk of Joseph who arrived there first. Hence the reason ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ (vs7). Fortunately for Joseph, there were enough female kin to help with the birth.

Praise the Lord God who always provide.

In my next post, we’ll talk about the part played by the shepherd and exactly who it is who was born in such humbling conditions.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 10

God’s Will Be Done [continued]

Imagine, if you will, God going over His checklist of things that are done and things yet to be done.

  • Sent angel to Zecharias.
  • Blessed a barren woman named Elizabeth to become pregnant in her old age.
  • Indwelled the child of Zecharias & Elizabeth with His Holy Spirit while still in the womb.
  • Sent angel to Mary.
  • Conception in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.
  • Sent a dream to Joseph to protect Mary and unborn child.

Then God looks at the next item to be checked, but then He pauses for the next item was suppose to be…

  • Jesus born in Bethlehem

But there is a problem! Mary and Joseph are still in the northern village of Nazareth. Bethlehem, on the other hand, is located far to the south; about 3 days of arduous traveling time. Not too safe for a nine months pregnant woman who is quite ready to deliver.

So, Jesus is born in Nazareth, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the Lord God declared that he is to be born in Bethlehem. It’s written in Scripture… So, His will must get done

Micah 5:2
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

In truth, God saw all this before it ever happened. His solution was to use a most unlikely of person, the emperor of Rome.

Luke 2:1-3
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

This should be a reminder to us on how great our God is. For…

Psalm 22:28
For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations.

So, meanwhile…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

In tomorrow’s post, we will compare the traditional way of the Christmas story to what the Bible actually say.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 7

Birth of the King’s Herald

In history, every important person entering a city, a building was always preceded by a herald. The herald’s functions is tell the people those things they needed to know about the visiting VIP.

  • In Buckingham Palace, the entry of the queen is preceded by the royal page announcing “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
  • In the Supreme Courtroom, the entry of the highest judge is announced by the court bailer with a title like this: All stand to The Honorable (full name), Chief Justice of the United States.

In this advent story, the Lord inspired Luke (a New Testament author) to start his Gospel not with the birth of the King of kings but with birth of His herald.

Luke 1:5a
In the days of Herod, king of Judea…
  • Herod, known as Herod the Great, was the puppet king of the Roman Empire which had violently expanded it’s military control into the Middleeast. Herod was a typical despot of the time.
  • Judea of the first century was inhabited mostly by the remnants of Israel that had returned from 75 years of exile in Babylon. The Judeans or the Jews then had survived 400 years of servitude to other nation states then to finally under Roman control.
Luke 1:5b-7
…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Again, does this sound familiar to the story of Abraham and Sarah? Well, it should. In the Bible, there are no coincidences.

Luke 1:8-10
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

Luke 1:11-13
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

What would be special about John?

Luke 1:14
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”

This baby will grow up to live a way of holy discipline that is hard for many to follow. In the Old Testament it was called the Law of the Nazirites.

Numbers 6:1-5
Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the LORD, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. ‘All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. ‘All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.”

Now, we come to his task.

Luke 1:15-17
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

You would think that Zacharias would have jumped and danced, but instead…

Luke 1:18-22
Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

Like the story of Abraham and Sarah, God kept His word.

Luke 1:24-25; 57-66
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

That is a very good question. This child will grow up to be the most unusual herald of them all. His name was…

John the Baptist