Merry Christmas from yours truly, The Ghost of Christmas Past.
Today is our final adventure, and I’ve saved the best for last. Come with me to Bethlehem, to see where it all started.
Oh Holy Night
The Virgin Mary, a young woman from Galilee, became God’s chosen one to conceive His child, as was foretold in Isaiah 7:14 which said “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and call him Immanuel.”
When it was found that Mary was pregnant, Joseph, the man she was pledged to marry, thought she had been unfaithful to him. In Jewish law, if a woman had committed adultery, she was publicly humiliated and in many cases, stoned to death. Being a man of honor, Joseph did not want this to happen to her and decided to divorce her quietly, so as not to disgrace her. But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream, and the angel verified Mary’s story. She was indeed carrying God’s child, and had not been unfaithful to Joseph. God’s angel told Joseph to make Mary his wife and be God’s Son’s earthly father. Joseph obeyed and took Mary as his wife, despite the shame he too would face by people who did not understand that Mary was carrying God’s child.
Due to a census decreed by Caesar Augustus, Joseph had to register in Bethlehem with Mary. While in Bethlehem, Mary found that she was about to give birth to Jesus. Joseph tried to find a room at an inn for her to stay, but there weren’t any vacancies. The owner of the inn allowed Joseph and Mary to stay in the stable, where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Meanwhile, some shepherds who were tending their sheep that night were visited by an angel. “Do not be afraid,” said the angel, “For I bring good news. The Savior has been born in the town of David.” After the announcement, a great host of angels appeared and began singing praises to God. The shepherds decided to visit baby Jesus, and after seeing Him, went and spread the news across Bethlehem.
The news traveled to King Herod of Judea; he heard that the King of the Jews had been born. Afraid of being overthrown, he made a plot to kill Jesus. At this same time, three wise men, called The Magi, saw the brightest star they had ever seen, and knew that the star signified the birth of the Christ child. They went to the rulers in Jerusalem to ask where the child was born, and the rulers told them he had been born in Bethlehem in Judea (Micah 5:2). Herod met with the Magi and lied to them, telling them that he too wanted to go and worship the Savior, and he asked them to seek out where the child was born and come back to notify him.
The Magi followed the star in search of the child and found him with his mother in Bethlehem. They offered him gifts of gold and myrrh, and when they departed, they did not return to Herod, having been told in a dream Herod’s real plan of killing the Savior.
Knowing that the wise men had betrayed him, Herod decided to go and find the child himself. He gathered forces to go to Bethlehem and kill every male child under the age of two. Joseph was warned in a dream by an angel that Herod was coming to kill Jesus. “Get up,” the angel said to Joseph. “Take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is planning to search for Jesus and kill him.” So Joseph obeyed and took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, which fulfilled God’s prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Another prophecy sadly was fulfilled while Mary and Joseph were in Egypt; the prophecy foretold by Jeremiah: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”
After Herod died, an angel appeared to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who tried to take the child’s life are dead.” Joseph heard that Herod’s son Archelaus was reigning Judea in place of his father and was told in a dream to go to the district of Galilee. Joseph finally was able to settle his family in the city of Nazareth, and so the last of the prophecies of Jesus’ birth and early life were fulfilled; that he would be called a Nazarene. (Sources, Matthew chapters 1 & 2)
The story of Jesus’ birth has been told since the first century, and every Christmas, billions of Christians celebrate and commemorate the birth of the Savior.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!