Thursday, December 24, 2009
Oh Holy Night!
The Birth of Jesus
Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." (TNIV)
An Angel Visits Mary
One day about 2,000 years ago an angel named Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman named Mary. Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God! Mary was confused and worried about this sudden news, but she had faith in God and said, "I am the Lord's servant; let it be as you say."
Journey to Bethlehem
Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the country now called Israel. It is about 65 miles (105 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the trip probably took them several days.
When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay because the inn was already full. They ended up spending the night in a stable, a place where animals were kept. There was probably fresh hay on the floor that they used for beds.
That night, Jesus was born. There was no crib, so they laid baby Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. The manger probably had fresh hay in it and made a nice bed for the baby.
Shepherds Visit Jesus
Jesus was born in a stable and laid to sleep in a manger. The shepherds came to see firsthand the things the angel had told them.
That night, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. An angel appeared to them and gave them the good news that a Savior, the Messiah, had been born. The angel told the shepherds they could find Jesus lying in a manger. Suddenly a whole group of angels appeared saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem and found Jesus in the manger, just as the angel had told them. After they had seen Jesus, they spread the news, and everyone who heard was in awe.
Wise Men Visit Jesus
Wise men from the East came to worship Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Some time later, wise men, or magi, from eastern countries saw a star in the sky that signaled the birth of a new king. They came to Judea, the region around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to worship Jesus, the new king.
A man named Herod was the king of Judea. He called the wise men to a meeting and told them to find the new king so he could go and worship him, too.
The wise men continued on to Bethlehem and followed the star until it was directly above the house where Jesus was. They found Mary and Jesus in the house and knelt down to worship Him. They brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, some of the finest things in the ancient world. Frankincense was burned to make a sweet smell, and myrrh was an expensive perfume.
After visiting Jesus, the wise men had a dream that warned them not to go back to King Herod, so they took a different route home.
Journey to Egypt
King Herod lied when he told the wise men he wanted to worship Jesus. He was afraid this new "king" would replace him as king of Judea. He did not understand that Jesus would grow up to be king of God's spiritual kingdom, not king of Judea.
What Herod really wanted was to find Jesus and kill Him! Herod was furious when he realized the wise men had not come back to tell him where to find Jesus. He sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the children under two years old, thinking Jesus would certainly be one of the ones killed.
But God had told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to live in Egypt where they would be safe from Herod. Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod had died, and then they returned to Nazareth.
Oh holy night!