A baby was born in the Middle East just over two thousand years ago. This seemed to have caused quite a stir. All the comings and goings around the inn must have made the local people wonder what the commotion was about. Then there were the bright lights in the sky and the sound of voices singing in the distance - and the shepherds had seemed so excited. They’d even left their sheep on the hillside to come and see this new-born child.
What was it all about? Babies are born every day without all this fuss. If it was someone important, like a prince or a member of the royal household, surely this would have taken place in the palace or some grand house!
The Jews were very religious. They knew their scriptures. This was something the prophet Micah had foretold almost eight hundred years before. They were expecting a new ruler for Israel, a Redeemer who would set them free from Roman oppression.
For years they had endured Roman occupation. And now Scripture was being fulfilled: ‘The Lord himself will give you the sign ... The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means God is with us)’ (Isaiah 7:14). God Himself was coming among them. Now they would be free.
But they were to be disappointed. The baby was born. But nothing changed. For another thirty years Rome dominated the Jews. Then there was word of a holy man, some said He was a priest or a prophet, travelling around the country healing the sick, preaching peace and teaching about the Kingdom of God. He was taken prisoner and tried for heresy. ‘The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24:22-21). They hadn’t understood.
‘Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). It wasn’t to be just in Israel, but throughout the whole world. Jesus came for each individual to rescue us all from the consequences of sin. Everyone who receives Him ‘shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
This was more than just a baby to be admired, and more than a king to be revered. This was a promise to be received. Can we take hold of this promise? Can we receive the One who went through so much suffering to set us free?
‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace ... He will reign … for ever’ (Isaiah 9:6-7). Let’s not lose Him under the barrage of tinsel and coloured lights. Let’s accept and receive the greatest gift the world has ever known.
What better reason can there be to celebrate Christmas?
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for Jesus. Without Him, where would I be? He was born in obscurity, despised and rejected, He took my sin upon His shoulders and died with it. I look to You, Father, during this Christmas period, and thank You for the precious gift of a new life that You made available for me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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