Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (The NATIVITY)

First of all, it is important to realize that Jesus Christ's existence did not start when He was born (or conceived in Mary's womb). He was the Son of God, eternally existing with God, beyond time.

John records:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." - John 1:1-2

Speaking to the Jews, Jesus would later say:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came to be [~2000 BC], I AM." - John 8:58

The Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, persons of the Trinity, were in existence right from the beginning as God, the unchanging, eternal, infinite God.

What was their existence like? We don't know since none of us was there! But we do know (from the Bible) that the relationship between the persons of the Godhead was characterized by love and harmony (for instance, see John 15:9, John 4:34). God's abode has been described as unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). God describes Himself as "the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and consecrated place" (Isaiah 57:15). The Psalmist says, "Jehovah is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like Jehovah our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth!" (Psalm 113:6)

God is so great that even looking at heaven is something for which He has to condescend!

The closest analogy on earth is a great king and his son, living in the greatest possible wealth, luxury, happiness and glory. Will the king send his son to live as a poor peasant among other peasants? No way!!

But this great God, chooses to come down to earth for people like us who don't deserve to have Him!! This is humility beyond compare! After Jesus returned to heaven, the apostle Paul exhorts his audience:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider clinging, to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found comprised as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." - Philippians 2:5-8

God began time when He created the universe. Although God made everything good, man rebelled against Him, and so His creation was marred. Note however, that God does not get surprised. Why? Because He knows everything in advance!

"I am the Mighty God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one else is like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from antiquity things which are not yet done" - Isaiah 46: 9, 10

Thus, even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had planned the solution to sin. The Bible refers to Jesus Christ as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), an allusion to his sacrificial death.

The Virgin Birth

In order to redeem man from sin, it was necessary for the Son of God to come down to earth and become a man. This advent was first announced by God just after Adam and Eve sinned, four thousand years before the birth of Jesus.

He said to the devil, "The seed of the woman shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal" (Genesis 3:15)

In the Bible, "seed" can mean descendent. It also means that which issues out of a man or woman to become a child, that is, sperm and egg cells (for instance see Genesis 38:9). Now a normal child is the seed of both a man and woman. However, Jesus is being referred to as the seed of just a woman. Thus, 4000 years before He was actually born, we are being told that He would have a -virgin- birth. His mother would be a virgin!!

Why is this necessary? Why should the savior be born of a virgin? When Adam sinned, he became a sinner, and since then all of us inherit a sinful nature. This sinful nature is inherited at conception:

"In sin did my mother conceive me...through one man sin entered the world...by the one man’s offense death reigned...through one man’s disobedience many were declared sinners" - Psalm 51:5, Romans 5: 12, 17, 19

It is through the man that sin is transmitted to the offspring. Thus, for Jesus to be born sinless, no male would have to be involved in his birth!

About 3300 years after God announces the "seed of the woman", He once again reminds us through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah:-

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel [God with us]." - Isaiah 7:14

Surely enough, Mary, a Jewish virgin living in Nazareth, had an angelic visitor in around 4 BC:

"And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." - Luke 1:26-33

Mary had a basic question:

"Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? [that is, I've not had sex with a man]" - Luke 1:34

The angel Gabriel had the answer:

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." - Luke 1:35

Of course, no one would buy a girl's story claiming to be pregnant because of a miracle by God - and pregnancy outside marriage was a big scandal in ancient Jewish society. Mary's fiance Joseph wanted to call off their engagement, "But while he was pondering these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." - Matthew 1: 20, 21

So Joseph stuck with Mary - the very fact that he chose to supports the genuineness of the virgin birth.

How credible is the virgin birth of Jesus?

The place of Jesus' birth

Unfortunately for Mary and Joseph, the then Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus Octavianus ordered a taxation, which meant everyone would have to enroll in their ancestral hometowns. Both Mary, who was almost due, and Joseph were descendants of David, the Israelite king who reigned from 1055 to 1015 BC [there goes another prophecy - the Messiah was to be a descendant of David]. David's ancestral home was in Bethlehem. This ensured that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah prophesied in around 750 BC (see Micah 5:2)!!

When they reached Bethlehem, the place was already very crowded - all the inns were full, and Jesus was born in a stable!

The creator of the universe, has no place for himself except a stable! Two things come out:-
  1. The world, as a general rule, is not receptive to God. They gave the son of God a stable to be born, and finally tortured him to death. Things haven't changed much today. Nobel prize winner George Wald says, "I will not accept [creation] philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore I choose to believe in that which I know to be scientifically impossible, spontaneous evolution." [George Wald, Biochemical Science: An Inquiry into Life, emphasis mine]
  2. Of course, -God- is not -really- a -victim- of circumstances! He could have certainly arranged to be born in a palace! But He chose a stable, so He could identify with the lowliest of people.
Think of it, dear reader. If you and I are going to have children, we'd want the best for them. Here we find God the Father, Creator and sovereign of the universe, giving His Son for mankind - ensuring that His birth is the lowest possible!!

Matthew and Luke give us the genealogies of Jesus [through Joseph and Mary respectively]. As required by prophecy, Jesus was the "Son of David", but His human lineage has many mars and spots in it. Judah begot Perez through incest. (Matthew 1:3, Genesis 38:24) Boaz was born of a "foreigner" who had lived life, previously, as a prostitute. (Matthew 1:5, Joshua 2:1)  Solomon's parents, David and Bathsheba had had an affair, and David killed Bathsheba's husband to cover up the deed. (Matthew 1:6)

You certainly don't need a great family background to come to God!

When Jesus was born, there was a dramatic announcement of his birth, not to the kings and Jewish religious scribes, but to shepherds:-

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men." - Luke 2:8-14. The image shows fields near Bethlehem where the shepherds would have been feeding their flocks.

Herod and the Wise Men

Another remarkable event that accompanied Jesus' birth was the appearance of a new star. In the very first chapter of the Bible, God records that He made the stars to be "signs" - of His purposes. Magi (wise men) from the East, perhaps the Parthian Empire, were able to interpret the star as signalling the birth of the Messiah, and so they showed up:-

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king [Herod the Great, son of Antipater the Idumean], behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." Matthew 2: 1, 2

Herod was an illustrious king. The image shows the remains of his hippodrome in Caesarea. Herod was also paranoiac about his kingship, although he never had problems retaining the favor of Emperor Octavian. Now, here come foreigners inquiring about a new king of the Jews, after he had managed to subjugate the Jews with great effort!

"When Herod the king heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." - Matthew 2:3

Herod knew whom to consult:-

"And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel." - Matthew 2: 4-6

These guys are amazing - they know the old testament so well that they can recall Micah 5:2 off the cuff. But they don't show any eagerness to see this king, unlike the shepherds and the foreigners from the East. Note that the Bible predicts Jesus' birth place 600 years in advance. Matthew then records for us how the Magi went to Bethlehem and worshiped Jesus, giving him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Being warned by an angel in a dream, they returned to their country through a different route, without meeting Herod. For his part, Herod was enraged, and, paranoiac about his kingship, he ordered the massacre of all baby boys in Judea under two years of age. This fulfilled the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:15. An angel warned Joseph to take his family to Egypt, and thus Jesus escaped. After Herod died (around 1 AD), an angel asked Joseph to return, and he returned, not to Judea, but to Galilee, to a town called Nazareth - fulfilling yet another prophecy.

Conclusion

Dear reader, just imagine:

  • How many of us have been born in a stable?
  • How many of us have had a virgin birth?
  • How many of us have had our births announced by angels?
  • How many of us have had poor shepherds as well as kings coming to see us when we were born?
  • How many of us have fulfilled a dozen prophecies just by our births?
  • How many of us were refugees as toddlers?

This man is truly unique - God planned it all out, for you! Forget about Xmas trees, Santa Claus, and the rest of the hype. The Son of God came to earth as a man - His birth will not make any difference in your life unless you acknowledge that He is indeed the Son of God and submit to Him.

Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With th'angelic hosts proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem"

Christ, by highest heav'n adored! Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th'incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav'nborn Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of Nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home:
Rise, the woman's conq'ring seed, Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.

- Charles Wesley