It’s been a long time! What better time to reconnect than at Christmas?
Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. I think for many of us, part of the enjoyment hinges on nostalgia. From family Christmas traditions to music and food and decorations that are reserved for this special time and cherished childhood memories.
As a child I loved our Nativity set with the barn and Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and those who came to celebrate His birth. My children went together one year to buy me a beautiful Willow Tree Nativity set. Each year as I set it up, I think of their sweet gesture and the story behind the Nativity.
Nativity, according to Miriam Webster, is this: “the process or circumstances of being born : BIRTH especially, capitalized : the birth of Jesus”.
The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth were remarkable. The angel visiting first Mary, then Joseph. A virgin conceiving! The journey the family was compelled to make and the humble lodgings as they settled in a barn before Jesus made His entrance into this world as man to fulfill the prophecies given so long ago. The host of angels proclaiming His birth to lowly shepherds—what a joyous celebration that must have been! The wise men, or magi, from a land far away with a completely different background, who studied the stars and observed a prominent, unique star that night. Because the stars were their business, so to speak, they knew that the Hebrews had recorded a prophecy about a King who would be born, and a star would light the sky to announce His presence.
Now these wise men have a controversial role in the nativity set and story. I usually keep them at a distance, giving my kids much fuel for razzing. Though many stories and movies portray their attendance in the manger, they actually arrived on the scene much later…after all the Far East was their home. Having said this, they are a part of the narrative in Matthew and I believe their part is an important one.
These men, as I said, lived far away—a different culture, a different race, studious men who were probably quite wealthy, given the generous gifts they brought the Christ child. These men traveled for two years, according to some calculations! They realized there was great significance in the birth of this Child. They did not count the distance too far to travel to meet the Child King, nor did they feel the trip demanded more time out of their lives than they were willing to sacrifice. They did not spare any expense in their gifts, nothing was too much to give Him.
I like the popular phrase “Wise men still seek Him.” Seeking Jesus. For those who have yet to meet Him. For those of us who have met Him, know Him, but sometimes forget to meet with Him, failing to enjoy the full benefits of relationship with Him and to understand the privilege in joining Him in His work. For all of us to comprehend His greatness and worthiness of our devotion as those magi did.
We see the characters of the nativity story. Mary, a sweet young woman. Joseph, an honourable man. Angels, proclaiming the miraculous birth. Shepherds, with an important job, but menial and usually relegated to the youngest members of the family. And finally, the aforementioned wise men.
What I contemplate as I consider the Nativity story is this:
Jesus came into the world for the young and old, the rich and poor, for Jew and Gentile. Without discrimination.
This Good News is for all men. The significance of God becoming man, not just for experience’ sake, but to implement God’s great plan of redemption for all mankind.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:1-21)Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen 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. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
‘BUT YOU, BETHLEHEM, IN THE LAND OF JUDAH, ARE NOT THE LEAST AMONG THE RULERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’ “
…they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)
Merry Christmas and remember that wise men do still seek Him.