“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4).
The word “fullness” speaks of something that is complete and fully developed, like a ripe apple ready to be picked or like a pregnant woman feeling labor pains, ready to deliver her baby. It describes the moment in history when the stage was perfectly set. At that moment, not earlier and not later, God sent forth his Son.
Think of how unlikely it all seems:
A decree from Caesar Augustus.
An angel appearing to Mary.
A virgin becoming pregnant.
An angel coming to Joseph in a dream.
A baby who will be called Immanuel.
A mysterious star in the east.
A group of Wise Men showing up in Jerusalem.
Angels appearing to shepherds.
A trip to Bethlehem.
An inn that was full.
A stable that was available.
A babe wrapped in rags and placed in a feeding trough.
A star that led the Wise Men to the right house in Bethlehem.
Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
A dying king who tried to kill the baby.
A desperate journey to Egypt.
Another journey to Nazareth.
Pretty amazing stuff if you stop to think about it. What are the chances that all of those things that had to happen in exactly the right way would have happened? That a pagan emperor would issue a decree at just the right moment in history, when the Pax Romana was in full force, when the world was yearning restlessly for deliverance, that angels would show up to a young man and a young woman, that they would believe the angels, that the virgin would become pregnant, that Joseph would decide not to divorce her, that the star would shine in the east, that the Wise Men would travel hundreds of miles seeking the baby, and all of it would finally focus on a stable outside an inn in the “little town of Bethlehem,” where the most incredible event in history took place.
C. S. Lewis says it this way:
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.
He is entirely right about that. Sometimes we focus on peripheral questions (how did Jesus turn water into wine?) that distract us from the central truth of our faith. We believe God became a man. That the Creator became part of the creation. That the infinite became finite. That Almighty God took on the form of a man and was born as a tiny baby. This is the central truth of our faith.
When everything was just right, God sent his Son to be our Savior.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
Lord, thank you for arranging all the details centuries in advance. You set the stage, then Christ was born. Open our eyes so that we may see him clearly. Amen.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’” (Matthew 2:1-2).
A great mystery surrounds the Magi.
Who are they?
Where do they come from?
The term “Magi” refers to a special class of priests in the Persian Empire. We know from other sources that the Magi had existed for hundreds of years before the time of Christ. They had their own religion, their own priesthood, and their own writings. It appears from the book of Daniel that they existed in his day, and it seems that Daniel was appointed head over the cast of the Magi in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 5:11).
Who were the Magi? They were the professors and philosophers of their day. They were brilliant and highly educated scholars who were trained in medicine, history, religion, prophecy and astronomy. They were also trained in what we would call astrology.
These influential leaders served as advisors to the king. It would not be wrong to call them king-makers because they functioned as political advisors to the Persian rulers.
Finally, they were highly-educated men who thought deeply about life and consequently it is perfectly legitimate to call them “Wise Men.”
We are greatly helped by this fact: We know that the Jews and Persians had intermingled for at least 500 years. It seems that they considered Daniel (who was a good Jew) as one of their own. Since the time of Daniel the Persians had known of the Jewish expectation of a Messiah. It is possible that they even knew from the prophecy of the “70 weeks” in Daniel 9 the approximate time of his appearing. What they did not know was the exact time. When they saw the star, they knew the time had come.
It is often said that “wise men still seek him.” That is true, and we should give these Magi all the credit they deserve because they risked a great deal to journey all the way to Jerusalem in search of the “king of the Jews.”
Think of how many barriers they had to cross to get to Jesus. There was a culture barrier, a distance barrier, a language barrier, a racial barrier, a religious barrier, not to speak of a hostile king and indifferent religious leaders. It wasn’t easy for them to find Jesus, but they did.
If they found him, then so can you.
Lord Jesus, grant us the zeal of the Wise Men first to find you and then to tell others where they can find you too. Amen.
In order to help pastors, we have put together a webpage with 47 Christmas sermons (plus a video). Please feel free to use this material in any way that you like. Use it, amend it, change it, improve it, and make it your own. Perhaps you'll get some good ideas for a sermon (or a series of messages). Or you may want to use it for your own devotional reading as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 NASB).
“Dwelt” is an unusual word.
It means to live among.
One version uses the phrase “moved into the neighborhood.”
Perhaps an illustration would help. Let’s suppose that I owned an ant farm, and for reasons known only to myself, I loved those ants more than anything in the world. How could I communicate my love to them? I could shout, “I love you,” but because I speak English and they speak ant, they wouldn’t understand. I could write them a letter, but they couldn’t read it. I could shrink down to ant size, but they wouldn’t recognize me. But if I had supernatural powers, there is one thing I could do. I could take on the form of an ant, be born as an ant, live as an ant, and communicate as they do. Then I could find a way to say, “I love you.”
That is what God did. He didn’t mail a letter or shout from heaven. He did the one thing we could understand. God himself came down and entered the human race. He moved into the neighborhood and became just like us so that we would hear him saying, “I love you.”
We wouldn’t have done it that way. We’d schedule a press conference, call the TV stations, hire a press agent, have a parade, call in the dignitaries, sell tickets, and make a big deal so all the world could see. We would take the Madison Avenue approach.
But that’s not God’s way. Read the New Testament again. Instead of flash and splash, there is a frightened father, an exhausted mother, a dirty stable in wintertime, rags for diapers, and a feeding trough. There he is, ignored by the mighty and powerful—a tiny, helpless baby. Immanuel—God with us.
It’s so simple that you know it must be true. Only God would have done it that way.
A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, “I just can’t believe all that stuff.” So I asked him, “What would it take for you to believe?” “I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself,” he said. “My friend, he already has come down,” I replied. “He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don’t believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you.”
One of the verses of a famous Christmas carol says it very well:
Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord.
Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the God-head see; hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”
Here is some really good news. Jesus moved into our neighborhood. Have you met your new neighbor yet?
Lord Jesus, we are glad that you moved into our neighborhood. If you had stayed in heaven, we would never have met you. Thank you for making us part of your forever family. Amen.