As was the Jewish custom, Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple on the 8th day in order to present Him to the Lord. Now Simeon was a very elderly Jew who had devoutly waited his entire lifetime to catch a glimpse of the Messiah. It says that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing this wondrous site. Do you think the Holy Spirit whispered to him that morning, “Today is the day, Simeon…today you will come face to face with your promised Savior!” I can only imagine Simeon’s excitement as he watched the crowds entering the Temple…”Is that Him? Is that Him?” And when the Holy Spirit nudged him, do you think he was astounded to see a tiny baby? Simeon then gently gathered Jesus in his arms and looked heavenward, tears streaming down his face, as he proclaimed, “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Imagine being that Innkeeper. The usually small, unassuming town of Bethlehem was being over-run by people coming in for the required census. His rooms were already taken by travelers, when this couple approached…the wife, clearly pregnant. The husband pleaded for a place to stay…telling the Innkeeper the time was imminent for his wife to deliver. The Innkeeper hurriedly pointed to the stable where the farm animals were kept and turned away…too preoccupied with everything he had to do. And if Mary and Joseph had told the Innkeeper who this baby was…do you think it would have made a difference? Or was the Innkeeper just too absorbed…too focused on the tasks needed to be done to realize the Messiah was coming? Today, are you so preoccupied with all the things you think need to get done that you’ve delegated Jesus outside to the barn? Are you like that Innkeeper…so focused on your “to do” list that you’re going to miss the Messiah’s birth?
Joseph was a quiet man…a devout Jew whose trade was as a carpenter and handyman in town. Joseph was also deeply in love with Mary, his betrothed, and looked forward to the day they would marry and start building a life together. But the rug was pulled out from underneath him when he learned Mary was pregnant…and not by him. So for moment, put yourself in his shoes. What thoughts and emotions would go through your mind and heart? Feelings of hurt, and betrayal would be surging through your being. Your mind would be racing with questions of “How could you do this to me? I love you.” Angry emotions would want to demand explanations from Mary for her apparent unfaithfulness. But even though Joseph had every right to make a public spectacle of Mary, (Deuteronomy 24:1) he chose to send her away quietly and spare her the indignities. But then God showed up…and all of Joseph’s questions were answered. For suddenly, it wasn’t just about him and his feelings…but about the eternal plan of the world receiving its Messiah.
For a moment, put yourself in Mary’s place. An angel has suddenly appeared, telling you that you’re not only divinely favored among all women, but that you have been selected to bear the Son of God…all the while maintaining your pure, chaste physical condition. Being a devout Jewish young lady, Mary undoubtedly would have remembered the famous prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth spoken in the past by the Prophet Isaiah…”The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) But what this angel was telling Mary had to have been just too amazing to fully comprehend. Would you have blindly trusted this angel’s explanation? Or would you have balked after first considering the consequences if you said, Yes…knowing there would be gossip, embarrassment, and heartache ahead?
The shepherds had just experienced the greatest light show ever…more sensational than the biggest fireworks display…more glorious than anything the world had ever seen. Mixed with their awe and wonder was excitement…they had just been told about the coming Messiah. No wonder they all agreed to, “go to Bethlehem and see this thing,(Rhema) the Lord has told us about.” They had been given God’s Word…the Greek word is Rhema…and their enthusiasm was infectious. And after they had found the Christ child, their elation didn’t wane, for in Luke 2:17 it tells us that, ” When they had seen Him, they spread the Word ( Rhema) concerning what they had been told about this child.” These plain, ordinary men were the very first missionaries, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. They had no Theological degrees or advanced education… God’s Word had touched them and couldn’t contain their elation. They were compelled to tell others just as we should be. For the greatest story ever told is the one they spread…a Savior has been born to you; He is Jesus Christ the Lord.
For Mary, this was her first baby…and for the world, it was likewise a new beginning. For Mary, it was her first labor and delivery in rather dismal conditions.. for us, it was the gift of a new start. It tells us in Colossians 1:15 that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation.” When that tiny baby was born, the manifestation of God the Father came to earth to dwell among us. And when Mary laid baby Jesus in that manger, surrounded by livestock and hay, the preeminence over all creation arrived to light the way for sinners.
Caesar Augustus had given a command that the whole Roman Empire should have an official count of the population. So we see Joseph and Mary headed to Bethlehem…Joseph’s home town to be recorded. This earthly father of Jesus was a kind carpenter by trade…a conscientious Jew who adhered to the Law…but who had to totally trust God when he found out Mary was pregnant. This quiet man had to work through hurt, confusion, and wounded feelings to rely solely on the Lord’s promise of the coming Messiah.
When the angel came to Mary she had questions, but in the end accepted the unfathomable. With Joseph though, it wasn’t that easy. The very human feelings of hurt and rejection were evident in his decision to divorce Mary quietly. And it certainly was within the Law to dismiss her from the bond of marriage with a Certificate of Divorce for her perceived conduct. But before this could happen, the angel visited Joseph and convinced him that what Mary had told him was true…she in fact had not been unfaithful. The Lord will sometimes give us a promise so wonderful and far-fetched that we can’t put our heads around it either…it’s at that point we will make the decision to either believe God or reject it based on our shallow emotions.
Mary and Joseph could find no lodging as they arrived in Bethlehem, so instead the baby Jesus was born in a stable, with animals standing quietly by. The greatest birth ever, wasn’t witnessed by kings, but only by cattle and donkeys. The birth of the Christ child wasn’t heralded by throngs of people, but only by the soft bleating of the sheep nearby. There were no great fireworks set off at his birth…only a brilliant star rising in the East.