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 9

God’s Will Be Done

In the beginning of the prayer that Jesus taught the Apostles were these words.

Matthew 6:10b
‘Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

As we continue our Christmas tale, allow me to bring to light how the Lord’s will got done.

Luke 1:26-35
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Let’s talk about the virgin birth. First, it was planned…

Isaiah 7:14
… 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.

Second, it was crucial for our salvation. How?

Let’s understand that God had set only one way for mankind to avoid eternal damnation and that is for one of us to pay for it through sacrifice of life. The problem is that the one who is to be sacrificed must be completely without Sin. This Sin was passed down by Adam and so, every human born of man and woman was born in sin. This is why we are not qualified to pay for the penalty of sin.

But then Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

1 John 3:5
You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

Now, after the angel made this incredible news…

Luke 1:38
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

There are many that may not know that this conception may actually put a dent in God’s plans. Let’s read…

Matthew 1:18
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, Mary was found to be with child who was not Joseph’s. If the conception by the Holy Spirit is not believed, people can only conclude that Mary was unfaithful and cheated on Joseph. After the angel’s visit, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child (miraculously). When she returned, she was already 3 months pregnant and obviously showing. This was a problem for her, the unborn Messiah and God’s plan. How?

Leviticus 20:10
If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

According to the Law, Mary could have been stoned to death.

Matthew 1:19
And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

But sending her away was not God’s will.

Matthew 1:20-25
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

In my next post, we will continue to look over God’s will being done.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 8

Is Jesus the Legitimate Messiah?

If I were an enemy of God, I would make it a point in casting doubt on the credibility of Jesus of Nazareth. I’d especially challenge his messiahship. By the way, this is exactly what the Devil is doing even in Christmas time. But God who is by far wiser than all had already thought of this. Do you recall His plan. Yes, ‘The Plan’ for our salvation.

We already saw part of His plan coming into fruition with the angel visiting Zecharias. The next stage is…

Luke 1:26-28
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Ok… Some questions need to be asked before we can go forward.

  • Why would God send His most important angel to this girl?
  • Who was Mary? At that matter, who was Joseph?
  • And how were they part of God’s plan especially in regards to Jesus’ messiahship?

As part of God’s intricate plan, He had chosen a specific family… a family line that went from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah then many generations later to a shepherd boy who slew a giant and became the greatest king of Israel. Of course, we’re talking about King David.

Now, if you want to read David’s entire story, you can open your Bible at the 1st & 2nd books of Samuel, the 1st book of Kings and the 1st book of Chronicles. For our purposes, let us look at what God said about David.

Acts 13:22
After removing Saul, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after My own heart; he will carry out My will in its entirety.’

Saul, by the way, was Israel’s first king before David, but he had failed God big time. God loved David so much that He gave him this promise.

2 Samuel 7:12-13
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Since the time that David passed the people expected the Messiah who is to be their forever king. So, how did Joseph and especially Mary came to be legitimately the royal link?

Let us look at their geneology.

From a legality point of view, no one can deny about Jesus lineage. Even if they did not believe in the virgin conception, Joseph’s choice to keep Mary as wife, made Jesus’ birth as his.

Just before Christmas Eve, we will continue this advent story on how God fulfilled His prophecies on the birth of His son.