Born to Die

Christmas_Cross

When Mary was informed that she was going to be with Child, she was told that His name shall be called “Jesus”. This name was not chosen because it had a nice sound to it, nor was it a matter of it being in the top 10 boys’ name for that year. The reason for this is because He “will save his people from their sins” ().   Continue reading Born to Die

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The Messiah in the Manger

Manger

The birth of Jesus was an extraordinary birth. It came as the result of the sovereign plan of God. This sovereign plan was determined before the foundation of world and in time was revealed in the Scriptures. It is for this reason the entrance of Jesus Christ into the world was not random or reactionary. He entered into the world in precise fulfillment to prophecy. Over the course of His life, He fulfilled around 100 ancient prophecies. Here are just a few: Continue reading The Messiah in the Manger

The King has Come

The King

When Jesus was born, there were shepherds on the surrounding hills of this region. As they were watching over their flocks, an angel from the Lord appeared to them with a message, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (). Shortly after this a host of angels appeared in the sky saying, “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (). That was an impressive scene. But why did this happen? The answer is, the King came into the world.

In simple yet profound words the apostle Paul wrote: “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (). I am struck by those four fascinating words concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, He: “came into the world.” This is a reference to the greatest mission to ever be accomplished in the history of the universe. Let us consider what took place as the eternal Son of God, the second member of the Holy Trinity “came into the world.

Incarnation
The word ‘incarnation‘ refers to that event in which the Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself a human nature. Jesus Christ who existed in all eternity (), “became flesh and dwelt among us” (). This event happened at the right moment of God’s prophetic timetable (). The means in which He came into the world was through the virgin conception ().

In this act, Christ Jesus (who is God), became man – and yet remained God. He had set aside the complete independent use of His Divine attributes in a way that He remained God, but it was veiled in His humanity (). Why was this done? Christ took on human flesh, so that He might take upon Himself human sin. In the words of Thomas Watson, “He took our flesh that he might take our sins, and so appease God’s wrath.” It was necessary that the Lord Jesus Christ had to become a man in-order to represent fallen mankind. If He weren’t a man He wouldn’t be able to die as a substitute for His people – the very ones He came to save. His entrance into the world was without sin (), a perfect baby who came by means of a miraculous entry.

Earthly Life
The second phase we will consider of His coming into the world is His ‘earthly life‘. At the divinely appointed time the Lord Jesus Christ commenced His public ministry at the age of thirty (). The Lord Jesus Christ experienced intense temptation from Satan ( and ), yet despite this reality, He never sinned nor was He ever inclined to (). In the four gospels we are exposed to the precious and life changing words that flowed from His lips. During His ministry He preached and taught “as one who had authority” (). In His preaching He demanded repentance
(), and offered forgiveness of sins (). He performed many signs and wonders, which served the purpose of authenticating and affirming that He was who He said He was. His miracles pointed to the reality that He is the eternal Son of God. His life was an open book for all to see who He was. There were no failings, no secret sins, no scandals, no lies, no let downs, and no pride. He lived a life where it could be said that He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” (). He lived a perfect life, something that no other man has ever done. Think about it, He could enter the most sinful and tempting situation, and He would not sin. He needed to live a perfect life in-order to be a perfect sacrifice.

Death
The final phase of Christ Jesus coming in the world for us to consider is His ‘death‘. He knew that this is why He came. At the appointed time in His ministry, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” ( NKJV). It is there where He will be tried by sinners, and will ultimately face something fiercer – the very wrath of God! The time comes when He is tried and arrested. In the process of His trial, many abused and mocked Him (). After further trial He was scourged with a whip that consisted of bones and metal that tore His very flesh from His back and was then sentenced to crucifixion
(). Yet in the midst of this horror, the Scripture says that He was not ashamed (). He is finally nailed to a wooden cross and publically ridiculed and shamed. Yet despite all of this, He maintains His commitment to His task. In the midst of ridicule He utters the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (). After He had received the full outpouring of God’s wrath and drunk from this cup of suffering to the final dreg, He declared, “it is finished!”And bowed His head and gave up His spirit”
().

What is it that took tplace on the cross? Beyond the physical sufferings from sinful man, poured on Him was the very wrath of God. Why? He was at the cross as a substitute for His people (). Though He was tried and murdered by man, Christ laid down His own life willingly in accordance with God’s will (a). He took upon Himself all the sins of His people
() as their substitute (). After His death, the Lord Jesus Christ was buried and three days later He rose from the dead () signifying the declaration of the Father that the penalty was paid and provided a pattern for the believer’s future bodily resurrection.

Do you agree that the words, “came into the world” are indeed amazing? They are amazing because the King came into the world to save sinners.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

ERROR: No results were found for your search.

29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Hanukah and Christmas

As a Jewish Christian, I celebrate Hanukah and Christmas.

Hanukah occurs in December.  I think that Hanukah has become a modern Jewish substitute for Christmas (presents are given).  Originally this festival celebrates the Maccabees’ defeat of the Greeks in 165 BC. The Greeks had stopped the sacrifices at the Temple.  They were oppressing God’s people and trying to bring an end to God’s one true religion.  But the Maccabees trusted in God and defeated their enemies.  It was just like the time of the Judges and other Old Testament events when God defeated the enemies of his people.

After 100 years or so of independence the Jews were then dominated by the Romans.  During this time Jesus came and died for his people’s sins.  Later, the Jews were defeated by the Romans in 70 AD, and the Temple was destroyed.  The Zealots had seen themselves as modern-day Maccabees.  If they trusted in God, God would defeat the Romans, they thought, and save his people.  But having rejected their Messiah, they were not trusting in God, and they were defeated. Continue reading Hanukah and Christmas

The Background to the Baby in the Manger

Background to the Manger

A baby in a manger sounds so peaceful. But what was the background to this story and was it all peaceful?  gives the account of an intense battle. It is the story of a woman who is with child. As she reaches the point of labour pains, an enemy confronts her. This is no ordinary enemy – it is a furious dragon. The dragon rages against the woman because he knows that the child she is carrying is the coming King who will rule the world with a rod of iron. After the child was born the dragon did all he could to devour her child, but he was unsuccessful in this attempt. So he puts all his energy into raging against the woman and eventually against all her offspring. That is the story of . What does this mean? Though this contains symbolic language, it nonetheless gives the account of actual events both of the past and of the future.

I understand the woman () to be a reference to Israel (; Is. 26:17-18). In this story she is carrying a child (the Messiah cf. Is. 9:6) that is going to rule all the nations (). The fiery red dragon is a reference to Satan (cf. ). We are told, “the dragon stood before the woman” () indicating a perpetual stance of opposition against her.

What is happening here? Israel is ready to give birth and bring forth the Messiah. However, the dragon attacks her. Satan on many occasions throughout history has attempted to devour and destroy Israel and the Messianic promise, but on each occasion failed. Consider the following examples: Pharaoh’s elimination of male Hebrew children (). Saul’s many attempts to kill David, from whose line will the Messiah come. In 2 the royal line from which the Messiah would eventually come from was reduced to one individual (Joash) as a result of Athalia’s evil actions. Herod demanded that the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding regions two years and younger be murdered (). These are some of the biblical examples in which the dragon has raged against the woman and the male Child attempting to devour Him.

In all of these events in which Satan was trying to devour the woman and the Messiah, he failed on each occasion. reveals what happened next, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” That night in which the baby laid in the manger would have been an amazing sight. Satan had done all he could to prevent the coming of this child, but He arrived. Satan continued to rage against Him, but He failed. Despite all the attempts to prevent the Messianic promise, Jesus Christ came into the world (cf. ) and after He fulfilled His mission () He ascended to Heaven (). Despite all that took place behind the scenes in-order to prevent the Messianic promise, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners () and will one day return to rule (, ; ). This is the background to the Christmas story.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

21:1 Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Worshipping the King

2130592184_a5bc82dfd5_o

contains the story of the wise men who travelled a great distance to worship the the Lord Jesus Christ. This grand occasion took place soon after the amazing event of the birth of Christ. In this post I would like to consider the events that transpired and the lessons that can be learned.

The Events
Prior to all this happening, Joseph and Mary had travelled to Bethlehem so as to register for the census (). Soon after their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary goes into labour. There was no room for them in the inn (a small guest room for travellers), so they lodged in a humble shelter and there the Son of God was born. The future King was laid into a manger, which was  a feeding trough for animals (). The Creator and King was born in such humble circumstances.

After these events we read, “in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (). Who are these “wise men“? Christmas tradition tells us there were three of them and they were kings (Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar). However, that is only guesswork. Based on the word for “wise men” they were likely educated individuals who studied astronomy, astrology, science and religious matters. They may have been royal advisors. It is believed that the reference to the east refers to Babylon or even Persia. If these wise men had travelled from ancient Babylon that would have been a 1,288 km journey!

After this long and committed journey, they arrive in the city of Jerusalem and with great anticipation they ask the question, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (). They were expecting to see they King, but the initial sight they saw from the nation where He was going to be born was blank faces. They provide the reason for this question by saying, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (b). God allowed for these men to see this star and thus fulfilled an ancient prophecy of the coming King: “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” ().

When this news had reached king Herod, he became troubled by it (). If this is true, this posed a huge threat to his position. So he assembled the chief priests and scribes so as to find out from the Scriptures what this could be referring to (). With this team of legal experts came the discovery that the Scriptures did indeed predict this to occur. contains two ancient prophecies (; ):

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

So Herod organized a secret meeting with the wise men so as to obtain further information (). He sent them to Bethlehem and told them that when they find him to let him know so that he may come and worship the newborn king (). This of course was a lie as he had no intention of worshiping Jesus. The wise men left and the star reappeared and guided them to the specific location (). They came to the house where the child was and fell down worshipping Him and offered gifts. By this stage Joseph and Mary moved from the small shelter to house ().

After this, an angel appeared to the wise men in a dream and told them to not return to Herod. So they departed and went all the way back to their homes secretly by going another way ().

The Lessons
Consider two important lessons from this well known story. Firstly, the wise men searched for the King. What we don’t read about is how these men came to the knowledge of the truth. God clearly had been working in their lives and first sought out these individuals (cf. ). When God truly seeks out a sinner, the sinner can’t help but seek after God. This is what happened here. In response to God’s work in their life, they searched for the King and nothing was going to get in their way. Secondly, they worshipped the King. After they found the King, they worshipped Him. This is a fitting response to knowing who Jesus Christ is. He of course is the Son of God and worthy of all our attention and adoration.

The events in this passage of Scripture reveal so much more than the cover of a Christmas card. These men proved to live up to their name (“wise men”). Not because of their education or prestige – simply by their actions. You too can be classed as a wise man or woman if you come and worship the King.

2:1 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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to 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, who was with child.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

2:1 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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

17 I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.

11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.

The Dragon, Woman and Child: The Real Background to the Baby in a Manger

original

A baby in a manger sounds so peaceful. But what was the background to this story and was it all peaceful?  gives the account of an intense and epic drama. It is the story of a woman who is with child. As she reaches the point of labour pains, an enemy confronts her. This is no ordinary enemy – it is a furious dragon. The dragon rages against the woman because he knows that the child she is carrying is the coming King who will rule the world with a rod of iron. After the child was born the dragon did all he could to devour her child, but he was unsuccessful in this attempt. So he puts all his energy into raging against the woman and eventually against all her offspring. That is the story of . What does this mean? Though this contains symbolic language, it nonetheless gives the account of actual events both of the past and of the future. Continue reading The Dragon, Woman and Child: The Real Background to the Baby in a Manger

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

“Hallmark Christmas” and the Incarnation

Did you know that Jesus was born in a beautifully quiet, warm barn, in Northern Europe somewhere? I didn’t. But I could swear that this is precisely how we think about our Lord’s birth.

You see, when we enjoy our “Hallmark-Christmas“, everything is calm, warm and peaceful in the stable where Jesus was born.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lays down his sweet head.”

 


No mention of the pain that Mary was surely still enduring after the birth, and no mention of the blood our baby Saviour was covered in when he was born.

“The cattle are lowing, the poor baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”

No mention that the goats smell really terrible, and probably are bleating and breaking wind. No mention of cow dung. No mention of rodents which might Continue reading “Hallmark Christmas” and the Incarnation

The Reason for the Season – Advent

You may not have realised, but we are in a season called Advent. When we reach December (or is it October?) we start to think of Christmas. We are all too hasty, though. It is not yet time for that! Advent is a season of expectant waiting. And wait we should.

You see, before Jesus was born, Israel had been waiting for centuries for their promised deliverer. From the beginning of the story of God and his people (found in the Bible), God had promised a deliverer – a Messiah. See . Continue reading The Reason for the Season – Advent

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”