Matthew 2:1 – 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 is born King of the Jews?”
The magi were known as “wise men” from Persia. They were like the magicians or astrologers of the Prophet Daniel’s time. These men were guided by a star in the east toward Jerusalem. They suddenly appeared in the days of Herod the Great, inquiring for the new-born king of the Jews, whom they had come to worship.
The role of the star in Matthew 2 suggests a connection with astrology. These astrologers, pursuing their observations of the stars in the heavens, encountered a sign of God (Matt 24:29-30). God broke through their misguided system to make the great event known. The joy, rejoicing, worship, and gifts which mark the response of these wise men to the birth of Jesus is quite a contrast to the troubled state and murderous intent of Herod and his Jewish advisers in Jerusalem (Matt 2:1-12). (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)
Why should the new star lead these wise men to look for a king of the Jews? Of all nations in the world, these wise men from Persia were more like the Jews, in their religion. They believed in one God, they had no idols; they worshipped light as the best symbol of God. Everywhere throughout the East, men were looking for the advent of a great king who was to rise from among the Jews. It had fermented in the minds of heathen as well as Jews, and would have led them to welcome Jesus as the Christ, had he come in accordance with their expectation. Virgil, who lived a little before this, wrote that a child from heaven was looked for, who should restore the golden age and take away sin. This expectation arose largely from the dispersion of the Jews among all nations. They carried with them the hope and the promise of a divine Redeemer. Daniel was a prince and chief among this very class of wise men. His prophecies were made known to them. The calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)
Isn’t our God good? He prepared the entire world for the advent of our Savior, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. As we celebrate His first advent of 2,000 years ago, let us not forget His Second Advent is before us. The Lord is even now preparing the modern world for the next greatest event in all of history, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form to receive His redeemed people and judge all who have rejected His gracious offer of salvation and eternal life.
Celebrate the newborn King as the magi did, but keep your eyes on the east as they were doing, for He is coming again with great glory and triumph! The Holy Spirit not only witnesses in us the reality of His first coming and redemptive work, but also His return for His saints and the final judgment of systems that have rejected Him from the beginning of man, including the devil and all his angels.
Father, I thank You for the record of the magi who were also seeking the promised King. Thank You that today, as then, there is a hope growing in the earth for the return of King Jesus. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might be a strong witness of Your first coming that provided salvation, and of Your glorious return in Your chosen timing.
Luke 2:15 – Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this great thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.
The shepherds did not hesitate to seek out Jesus once informed of what the Lord had done for them. The Scriptures tell us that they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary, Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
The Lord has many ways of informing people of what He has done. The shepherds responded correctly by immediately searching out the Christ child. Some people want to get more information, while others need to think about their experience for a while to decide whether to believe it or not. When the Lord reveals Himself, He expects an immediate response. The degree of the revelation is not the issue. Some may think if God revealed Himself to me like He did to the shepherds, I too would believe and immediately respond. Human nature is strange and sometimes hard to figure out in terms of how one might respond under similar circumstances.
There are many distractions in life to keep us from running hard after God and His purpose. Even supernatural experiences can be a momentary excitement. I have been in many gatherings over the years and have watched the power of God touch people dramatically. It has always been curious to me how quickly and easily the excitement of the Lord’s presence can be forgotten and the normal routines of life are simply picked up as if nothing had taken place. These shepherds were transformed by their encounter.
After seeing the babe in the manger, they immediately made known what the angels had declared to them about this child. Those who heard the shepherds wondered at the things told them. Mary treasured those reports in her heart. The shepherds went back to tending their sheep, but glorified and praised God for all that they had heard and seen.
The spirit of Christmas is in telling others the wonderful story of God’s love for man and His provision of salvation through Jesus the Christ. We give gifts as a symbolic gesture as we remember the greatest gift ever given. Reflect on the many occasions the Lord revealed Himself to you in some supernatural way. Ask Him to remind you of the times He has made His presence known. Like the shepherds of old, you knew the joy of the Lord’s presence. Glorify and praise God for He is altogether worthy.
Father, I thank You for the message of Your grand love for all mankind. Help me to run hard after You to discover Your treasures in Christ. Cause me to be as the shepherds, a witness of the things I have been told and have seen.
Luke 2:14 – A multitude of the heavenly host appeared praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
At the birth of Jesus the whole of heaven’s hosts joined in the celebration. The angel of the Lord appeared many times throughout the Old Testament to bring to men messages from the throne of God. Daniel the prophet experienced numerous occasions when Gabriel the archangel appeared to him with messages from God. Never before did a multitude of the heavenly host come declaring words from God as recorded in the book of Luke.
The Scriptures can be so clear at times and this verse is one of those occasions, “Glory to God in the highest.” God is Spirit and His throne is in heaven. We cannot comprehend either God or His throne. God is mystery to man, so God revealed His nature by sending His Only Begotten Son in human form. Not only did He do this, He has made it possible, through Christ, for His Holy Spirit to live inside every believer. In this verse the angels say, “In the highest,” there is no height higher than the Throne of God.
The angels also made it abundantly clear concerning God’s will: “On earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” As we look back in Scripture, there was a time when God was not pleased. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). What an indictment against mankind! God’s heart is fully revealed in Luke’s record of Christ’s birth. He reconciled His grieving over creating man as revealed in Genesis with His “Great Love” revealed through His Son Jesus and the “new creation” in the Spirit He was bringing forth.
God the Father is pleased with man, not because man is good, but because of “the man Christ Jesus.” “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Now was the proper time. The angels began the proclamation that awesome night. The Apostles continued the proclamation as they preached Christ in “faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7).
It is now our turn! As we celebrate His birth and remember what the angels declared, make sure you represent heaven well. God wants peace among men. God is well pleased with us as He sees Christ revealed in all men and women who have put their trust in God’s first new creation man.
Father, I thank You for Your declaration of peace and pleasure of man. Thank You for Your heart of love and mercy shown toward fallen man who had no hope. You have given hope to the world through the birth of Your Son Jesus. Help me to be joined with the angels in proclaiming Your great love.
Luke 2:11-12 – Today, in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Heaven truly came to earth on the day of Christ’s birth. Not only was the Son of God born in Bethlehem, but a multitude of angels filled the skies and revealed themselves to many who were waiting for the expected Messiah. As shepherds were watching over their sheep, the glory of the Lord appeared as an angel spoke to the shepherds and those shepherds were filled with fear.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Man is normally fearful of the supernatural. Angels appearing and talking certainly qualify for supernatural activity. The heart of the Lord is revealed through these angelic words, “Don’t fear.” The Father sent His Son because He wanted a relationship with man. You cannot have a healthy relationship with another if there is “terrible fear.” God’s word to mankind is “Don’t be afraid because I have provided salvation”.
The angel goes on to explain that he had come to bring “good news.” It was news of “great joy” and this news was “for all people.” The Gospel is the Good news of Jesus Christ. It starts with His birth, but grew to include His death, burial, and resurrection. As Jesus hung on the cross, He gave up His life for all people.
Real joy is found in a relationship with God the Father, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit whom the Father has given. Wouldn’t you love to have been around the fire that evening as the shepherds talked about what they had just experienced on their watch? Their minds must have gone back to the many passages of Scripture they heard from their religious leaders over the years.
Our God is the God of Victory! There had been no prophet to bring the Word of the Lord for over four hundred years. The religious leaders of Israel had become dull of hearing and filled with lust for power. Things looked rather bleak for the “covenant people.” But on this night, the sounds of victory rang through the skies. Declarations of “peace on earth” and proclamations of “goodwill toward men” rang out through the quiet stillness of the night. God is a God of the immediacy. “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared” (Luke 2:9).
For over two thousand years, the message the angel brought to these shepherds has been ringing out in the earth. From Jerusalem, men began to carry the good news until the entire then-known world had heard “Jesus is Lord.” The message has continued down through the centuries to our day. Christmas is a wonderful time to be renewed in the Gospel through Christmas carols and Christmas plays. It is also a great time to be renewed in God’s will. Each of us can share the good news with another or perhaps with many.
The gift of God in Christ was never meant to be held privately, but is intended to be shared with as many people as is possible. Tell someone about Jesus before the year’s end. Pray for divine appointments and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you.
Father, anoint me with the Holy Spirit to share Your Good News to as many as You would lead me. Release through me the message of freedom from fear, and the blessing of peace and joy from the presence of the Lord.
Luke 2:7 – She gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke records the greatest event in all human history. Mary, a virgin, gave birth to the Son of God. Of all things, He was laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn.
Isaiah the prophet, 700 years earlier, prophesied Jesus’ birth. “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven . . . The Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:11, 14). The Old Testament prophet Micah pinpointed the place of Immanuel’s birth. “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” (Micah 5:2).
The creator of the worlds was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him. To think about the events of the first Christmas defies all the rational thinking of man. Christ, who created all things, came as a baby and lay in a manger. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-18).
From the fall of man in the garden, there has not been room for the living God. He has had to break into human history. He has had to reveal Himself through signs and wonders. He chose to hide Himself in human flesh and reveal His love through humility and brokenness. Only by His Holy Spirit can one see who He is and embrace His love.
At this particular season of the year, it is good to ask ourselves, “Will I make room for the risen Christ in every area of my life”? He not only wants to be in the inn of your heart, but He wants ownership because He bought your spirit, soul, and body with His precious blood spilt thirty-three years after His birth. You cannot truly celebrate Christmas without celebrating His resurrection from the dead and His habitation among humans through His Holy Spirit. The complete story is that He is coming again in bodily form for “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Father, I thank You for the babe in the manger, Jesus Christ the Lord. I thank You for His willingness to be rejected of men. I thank You for Your love that has drawn me to the Savior and enabled me to partake of His sufferings. I thank You for Your precious Holy Spirit and for the promise of Christ’s return and our gathering unto Him.
Luke 1:76 – You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways.
John the Baptist was the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets. Jesus testified of John saying, “This is the one about whom it is written, Behold I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You” (Luke 7:27). Today, we hear the term “forerunner.” John was the “true forerunner.” In John was a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit and when he spoke, great conviction came upon the people. Many responded to his call to be baptized. His ministry of baptism was a preparatory response to the coming Messiah. Some thought that John was the Messiah, but he was only preparing the “way” for the Lord.
One reason for the confusion about John’s prophetic ministry was that Moses had spoken of a prophet like himself. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, and you shall listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15-16). Some were questioning whether John was “that prophet” of which Moses spoke. John was chosen by God to point out the “true prophet,” the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to note in Zacharias’ prophetic word, that he speaks of the Lord’s ways. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of God in many different respects. One of which is that He is the true Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher. All those ministries come from the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, it is Christ who is the true prophet. If one is called to the office of “Prophet,” Jesus takes of His prophetic anointing and places a portion on the one He has called. Jesus’ ways are altogether righteous. He makes the one who believes on Him, altogether righteous. Jesus is our High Priest who is ever-living to intercede on our behalf. When a believer enters into the ministry of intercession, the anointing of Jesus for intercession comes upon that one.
John the Baptist was the first forerunner in the New Testament. He prepared the way for our Lord’s entrance into ministry. Jesus speaks of the “least” in the kingdom of God as being greater than John. “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11-12). Each believer is a forerunner as they live a kingdom lifestyle before a Christ-rejecting world. Some are called, like John, to live lives that are separated from the world in a profound way. Some give up the comforts of the culture they have known and go to live among people from a completely different culture to bear witness of Christ and His love.
The Holy Spirit has come to show us the “ways” of the Lord. He leads individuals into various experiences and expressions of Christ’s life and love. The Spirit of God is the One who prepares us for the life He has chosen to reveal in us. He gives gifts to enable us to more accurately represent the Lord Jesus and His love for people. Accept the call of God to be His representative in your sphere of influence. John fulfilled his call to present Christ to Israel. I choose to accept the call of God in my life to reveal Christ and His love to those around me.
Father, I ask for the Holy Spirit to anoint me to be a forerunner. Let my life represent Christ in such a way that Your ways are manifested through me. I pray for the love and compassion of Christ to be evidenced in my daily walk before others, that they might be drawn to the Savior.