A. GOD SETS JOSEPH’S HEART AT PEACE CONCERNING MARY’S PREGNANCY (Matt 1:18-22)
- What Mary had foreseen, actually happened. Her fiancé, Joseph, did not believe her that the baby she was expecting was conceived by God, the Holy Spirit. To him her pregnancy was definitely a huge disappointment, but because he loved her and because he was a God-fearing man, he decided not to make the matter public, because it would be a very shameful thing for her and could even lead to her being stoned. So he decided to rather separate from her in secret.
- Mary must have shed many tears, because she loved Joseph and now he was disappointed in her. He did not believe that the child was conceived by the seed which the Holy Spirit had placed in her. Who would care for and support the child? All of her friends would shun her, because they would view her as an immoral woman.
- God’s way is not always an easy way. When we follow the Lord it is possible that people will misunderstand us. When we live a holy life and do not take part in the sinful pleasures of the world, people will joke and accuse us of thinking we are better than they. When a young man refuses to drink and to swear, he is made out to be a weakling by the “men”. Often we lose our friends when we bind ourselves to the Son of God. In societies where ancestor worship is practised, parents can become angry when their children refuse to take part in the feasts where an animal is sacrificed to the ancestors.
- Mary probably had to endure many attacks during the time of her pregnancy, but God rescued her. He sent an angel to appear to Joseph in a dream, saying that he should take Mary to be his wife, because the child she was expecting was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When we do the will of God, we can leave the consequences to Him, as He will take care of and justify us. It is just so easy for Him to solve our problems.
- The angel also told him to give the child the name, Jesus which means Saviour for He would save people from their sins.
- When Joseph awoke from his dream, he probably went immediately to Mary’s house to share the dream with her, and tell her what God commanded him to do. Naturally it was a huge relief to this tearful girl, caught in the grip of fear. With one action their heavenly Father had removed their pain and doubting. Hard words and tears gave way to laughing and joyful exclamations and there and then they started making plans for their marriage.
- When it looks as if everything is going wrong, or our whole life is collapsing, we must trust God even more. He will never leave us in the lurch. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)
B. THE BIRTH OF JESUS (LUKE 2: 1-7)
- Up to now we have looked at the story of the birth of Jesus as Joseph and Mary experienced it, but let us now look at it from the position of the Child Itself. Who was this baby? He was the Son of God. One would think that such an important baby would have received the best management imaginable. When an especially important woman needs to give birth, usually she is taken to a posh hospital where only the best doctors would care for her at the time of the delivery. Whenever a child is born to a president or king, it is major news on the media. Months before, articles appear in all the magazines.
- This was not the case with Jesus, the Son of the Most- High God. His pregnant mother had to have a long ride on the back of a donkey and not in the glamorous carriage of a king.
- When they arrived in Bethlehem, the town was packed with people who had streamed in for the census. The couple couldn’t find any accommodation. Eventually they just had to be content to stay in a stable used for cattle, sheep and goats.
- When the baby was born, they laid him in a manger, a trough used as a food container for the animals.
- Why did God allow the birth to be under such poor conditions? He is the Almighty and could have arranged that His Son be born in a palace. But no, He wanted to show mankind that He was the God of all. He wanted to assure the poor, the sick, the rejected and the lonely that He was also their God, and that His Son loved them so much, that He was willing to humble Himself more than anyone of them, to be their Friend and their Saviour.
C. GOD REVEALS THE NEWS TO THE SHEPHERDS (LUKE 2:8-20)
- The Lord used His own “media” to announce the birth of His Son, messengers from outermost space, heavenly beings.
- Another remarkable thing is that the angel, and then a host of angels, did not appear to the rich or outstanding people of the town, but to the shepherds. They were so poor that they did not have a place in which to keep their sheep at night, but had to sleep with the flock in the open field.
- Why were they now so privileged to be visited by an angel? Did these men know God, or was He just freely showing His undeserved grace to whomsoever He wished? So these shepherds were the first to learn of the good news that the Son of God had been born. How privileged indeed were they. Out of all the masses of people, they were the first to hear the Gospel Message; the message that a Saviour was born Who would take away the sin of the world.
- What was their reaction? They believed the angels, left their animals right there and hastened to Bethlehem. Arriving at the stable, they found the Child, Jesus, wrapped in cloths as the angel had said to them.
- Just think how glad Mary was to hear their testimony. She might have thought that God didn’t care about her, because she had had to give birth to her child in a stable. But here were His messengers to tell her that God had sent His angels to them with the same message that He had had for her through an angel nine months before.
- When the shepherds themselves looked at the Jesus Child, their hearts were so full of joy that they entrusted their sheep on the slope of the hill to the Lord, and first went around telling everyone what had happened and that they had found the Christ.
- When a person genuinely finds Jesus, he tells it to everyone. Whatever fills your heart and mind, flows over into words. An encounter like that so grips you that it overwhelms all else in your life.
D. GOD REVEALS TO CERTAIN WISE MEN WHAT HAD HAPPENED (MAT 2:1-12)
- Here we have a completely different category of visitors. They were not illiterate, but well-read.
- They must have been rich men because they brought expensive gifts with them.
- They were also people who had contact with God. He communicated with them in a wise way that they as astronomers/stargazers would understand, namely by the starry heavens. He put a special star in the sky and because they studied the stars, they immediately noted this unusual heavenly-body. One night it just suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Immediately they understood that it was a sign from God that a special child had been born. The star moved in a fixed direction and they decided to follow it in search of this special King.
- In that manner they came to arrive in the land of Israel, and went to make inquiries of king Herod. They apparently thought that he, as head of the country, would know where the new king of the Jews had been born. However, king Herod did not know, and at the same time the news upset him because he thought the new king would dethrone him.
- Unfortunately, most of the present day leaders are in the same position. They may be rich in knowledge of the running and management of the world around them, but most don’t know how to contact God or to find peace in Him. Their knowledge of God is usually in line with that of the religious world, namely, that people must go to church on Sundays, must give contributions there, live a good moral life and give money to charitable organisations. Their hope is that in this way they would find favour with some or other supreme being, but they cannot give testimony that they themselves have found the Creator.
- King Herod began enquiring from the religious people, the church people of his day. They opened their Biblical scriptures, saw that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and told King Herod so. What is so amazing is that although they now knew where to find Him, they themselves did not take the trouble to go and worship Him. They were, in fact, quite content to continue with their own form of religion. They would prefer any knowledge in connection with Him to be hidden, because they were important leaders of the Jewish religion and were scared that their members would forsake them and attach themselves to the new King. They were selfish and conceited. Instead of leading people to God, they stood in the way of them reaching Him and did this by giving false information. So they decided not to go themselves and see the King, but to get more information from the travelers from the East when they returned through Jerusalem on their way back home.
- However, the wise men had come a long way, and had a burning desire in their hearts to meet this important King. They must have been disappointed in Herod and the religious leaders, but not in God. He had helped them all the way. When they left the palace, they looked up at the heavens, once more saw the star and followed it all the way to Bethlehem, to where it stood still above the place where the Child, Jesus was. As they entered in and saw the Child, joy flooded their hearts. They fell down and worshiped Him.
- Here were important, learned, rich men falling down to worship a little child. Why? Wasn’t it a strange thing to do? Not if you knew that it wasn’t just an ordinary child. He was the Son of the almighty God. They had not been instructed in the faith and doctrine of the Israelites, but God Himself, in that distant foreign country, had revealed this truth to them, and because of that they came to worship His only begotten Son as God.
- Then they brought out their costly gifts and offered these to Him: gold, incense and myrrh, presents fit for a king. These men were ready to give the best they had to the Son of God. Firstly, they gave all the time it took to travel (probably months) to Bethlehem. Secondly they also gave these costly gifts – as much as they could load onto their camels. They even risked their lives to travel that long, dangerous way. Bandits could have assaulted and killed them.
- Once you realize that Jesus is the Son of the Supreme God Who was born to save you from your sins, you give Him gifts with a willing heart, yes, even your whole life.
- God then appeared to them in a dream, warning them to return to their country via another route, so that Herod’s evil plan to kill the Christ Child would be thwarted. Having seen their mission fully accomplished, they traveled back home under the protection of the Almighty.
- The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord (Ps 37:23)
IF YOU HAVE BEEN BLESSED BY THIS STUDY GUIDE, OR HAVE ANY REQUEST, QUERY OR OTHER COMMENT, PLEASE USE THE CONTACT FORM BELOW.
SHARE WITH OTHERS: Have you enjoyed this study guide? Then please share it with your friends by way of social media such as Facebook, etc. In so doing we join hands in bearing out the Good News.