CTT | Considering the Nativity Scene

We decorated our front yard this weekend, complete with 2 displays, some ninja-bread men fighting and a nativity scene that only has Mary, Joseph, and a baby Jesus in Mary’s arms. We visited an Evangelical church on Sunday morning that was working through a video series in their adult Sunday school class. As I wrestled to fall asleep last night, several questions were tumbling around in my mind… one of which was, “Why do we tell/portray the story of Christ’s birth the way we do?” We will be talking about the setting of the nativity, but we won’t be covering the time/season of year in this post.

Relevant Texts

The birth of Jesus is specifically addressed in only two of the four Gospels. Let’s look at what Matthew recorded in his account.

Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) | The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV) | The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Okay, so we have the Matthew text, and I included some extra narrative cover the time spent in Bethlehem. If you’ll remember from our Gospel Wednesday series working through the Gospel According to Matthew, this account was written for a primarily Jewish audience. Matthew focused primarily on the fulfillment of prophecy in his record of Christ’s birth. The visitation of the magi is a reflection of this, particularly in what took place between them and Herod. If we were trying to condense the Matthew account into a nativity scene, we’d have Joseph, Mary, an infant (but not necessarily newborn) Jesus in a house, with a star overhead and the magi visiting.

Luke sought to maintain a detailed record of events that took place. Let’s go to his account of Christ’s Birth.

Luke 2:1-7 (ESV) | The Birth of Jesus Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Okay, so most of what we see in our modern-day nativity scenes and reenactments come from the Gospel According to Luke. There are a few things to address in this first portion. Firstly, why is it that we always see Joseph leading a donkey with Mary riding fully pregnant and ready to give birth at any minute? Why do we see Joseph knocking on the door of an inn (ala Holiday Inn Express) hoping to get a room? Why is it whenever we refer to the nativity scene as “the manger” we include some rickety, airy, shack in the definition? Well, these and many other images are read into the text… and what gets imported isn’t necessarily 21st century, but a lot of it is what we think might have been based on what we imagine “the dark ages” would have been like… because that’s as far back as many of us tend to imagine. That’s sloppy. In fact the eisegesis ends up overlooking details found in the text.

  • Joseph wasn’t taking Mary on a honeymoon to some exotic location to hide the questionable pregnancy. Joseph was going to his own town to register himself and Mary. Why Bethlehem? As far as Joseph was concerned, because that’s the home of his extended family, the house of David. God chose Mary and Joseph at this time for this place because He decreed it would be so. Bethlehem is some 70 miles away from Nazareth. It is unlikely they made that trip alone, especially given the reason for the trip… a census. There is no reason to think that Joseph and Mary (each of the house of David) independently moved to Nazareth, found each other, then had to return on their own to Bethlehem. That’s a modern (Western individualism) paradigm. Sure, they may have been somewhat detached from their group, but they would not have been all alone. It is unreasonable to assume they would have been checking into some inn as strangers for an undetermined length of time of the census, especially since they were poor (we’ll see below). People tend to make it a one-night thing by suggesting that Mary had the baby as they entered into Bethlehem, found no vacancy at the Holiday Inn Express, and took shelter in a barn… because, that’s how farming and livestock was done in the first century, right? The Holiday Inn Express needed a place to park all of the livestock people traveled with, right? No, and no.
  • The registry for a census wasn’t the quick and simple thing we think of it today. Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for a while. Notice Luke’s wording, “while they were there”… so we really… really need to dispense with the image of Mary going into labor the moment Joseph gets turned away from the Holiday Inn Express.
  • Let’s look at the word being translated “inn” in verse 7.  κατάλυμα (kä-tä’-lü-mä) is translated inn, here… which is a correct translation for its day, but we modern-folk have professionalized the concept of an Inn (hence my constant reference to Holiday Inn Express). The inn in this time period is the guest room. The word is used by Luke later in his gospel account, and by Mark in the parallel account. Let’s look at those cases:
    • Luke 22:7-13 (ESV) | The Passover with the Disciples
      Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

    • Mark 14:12-16 (ESV) | The Passover with the Disciples
      12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

  • Sometimes we refer to the manger as the entire shack/barn, and sometimes we point to a crib-like structure made just for a newborn baby. The manger was a trough for dry feed for livestock. In some homes where a donkey or goats were vital for livelihood, the common area of the house would have a section where the animals were brought in at night for security and warmth. Such a setup would have included a manger for dry feed. Each morning the animals would be let out and the area cleaned. Remember, the inn is the upper room away from the area where the animals would have slept. If the family home where Mary and Joseph stayed was crowded, there’s no reason to insist the livestock would have been inside with everyone for the birth, especially since Jesus was laid in the manger, the place where the animals would have been looking for food. Let’s see where Luke used the word for manger (φάτνη) in a context besides the birth of Christ.
    • Luke 13:10-17 (ESV) | A Woman with a Disabling Spirit
      10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

  • Okay, so for a final thought on this is that not all of the house may have been under a roof. Some archaeological dig sites of first century homes suggest that the house may have had an uncovered courtyard area in the common area, still protected by the front door. Then one would go into the upper room (inn) for sleeping or make use of the common area below for work/chores. This is particularly relevant for what happens next in our Luke text.

Luke 2:8-21 (ESV) | The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

I have no doubt that these shepherds were there that same night. Who were the “all who heard it” mentioned? My first answer would be to point at all of the people occupying the Inn. How many people depends entirely upon which house in which they were staying. There was an audience. Luke interviewed eye witnesses. Now, I highlighted the circumcision and the naming of Jesus here for two reasons, first because I’ve heard many teach the next portion as if Joseph and Mary would have taken Jesus into the Temple for the circumcision. There’s no reason to make that assumption, and there’s a very good reason why that couldn’t be the case. Secondly, I wanted to line up this text with the Matthew text. Matthew skipped over the details of the night of Christ’s birth and went straight to the naming (which happens on the day of circumcision). I believe this next portion to take place before the visit of the magi.

Luke 2:22-38 (ESV) | Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

After giving birth to Jesus, Mary was ceremonially unclean for 40 days. The circumcision and naming took place on the 8th day, and once the required time of purification of Mary was complete, the family went to the Temple to offer the sacrifice required for redeeming the first-born. Joseph and Mary are poor and the Law of Moses made provision for a less expensive sacrifice for those too poor to offer the lamb… that’s the significance of the 2 pigeons being offered. I believe the visit of the Magi to have happened sometime close to this trip to the Temple, for if the magi had come much later, Herod would have been alerted to the rumors before the Magi came, and if they had come too early, Herod’s search would have found them before the time of purification was complete. In this as in all other things, God is Sovereign and His timing is perfect.

Luke 2:39-40 (ESV) | The Return to Nazareth

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Looking back to our Matthew text, they left from Bethlehem to Egypt… and once Herod was dead, they returned to Nazareth of Galilee. Nazareth is north of Bethlehem, so they might have passed through, but I’m thinking they probably avoided the area. It makes sense that Luke would skip over this portion, as this flight into Egypt was secretive, inspired of the LORD, and Matthew had already covered it. So Luke picks up the narrative from here on out following Jesus out of Galilee.

Conclusion

We need to return to the text of the Scriptures when we seek to share the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So many times I hear a preacher lament how “we’ve all heard this story many times before” and urge his listeners to “approach the birth of Jesus with awe and wonder and thanksgiving”… only to then summarize most of the details in keeping with our modern interpretations rather than pay close attention to the passages. It is very frustrating, doubly so when churches keep playing movies that further reinforce bad eisegesis of the events that took place. Please stop with the Holiday Inn Express narrative, that wasn’t what happened. No, Mary and Joseph were not refugees in Bethlehem the night of Christ’s birth, they were most likely with family. The refugee argument fits the flight into Egypt, but that was God’s intervention and fulfillment of prophecy. The magi visited a house, the shepherds probably also visited a house, though this house may have had a small, uncovered, courtyard for the shepherds to assemble on that first night. Is it a sin to simply continue with the commercialized depiction of the Nativity Scene? I can’t say for you, pray about it. I will say that whenever it comes to teaching about the events of that night, keep with the text. Teach what the Scripture says first.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Christmas Gospel | What Mary Knew

Truthinator's Blog: Humor, Satire, and Opinion of a Theological Nature

Truthinator’s Blog: Humor, Satire, and Opinion of a Theological Nature

We’ll continue our study of the Gospel According to Matthew in a few weeks. For now, we feel it is important to remain fixed on the topic of Advent, when the Word became flesh, Jesus the Son of God. One very popular Christmas song explores the question of “Mary, did you know” who Jesus would become and what He would do? Recently the Truthinator’s Blog Facebook page shared this graphic, which solidified my desire to explore what it was that Mary knew, by faith.

What Gabriel Told Mary

Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Wow. She was told a lot. Mary knew that Jesus was the Son of God. She knew that He would be given David’s throne, and that He would be great, and His reign would be eternal. Only God can have such a reign. By faith, Mary knew that the child would be the Son of the Most High God. Now, after the angel departed from her, Mary went to visit Elizabeth. Let’s continue in the text.

Luke 1:39-80 (ESV)

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

I get emotional every time I read this passage. No doubt Mary was still concerned by her encounter with the angel Gabriel and what his message meant. God is so good that the moment Mary greeted her, the Holy Spirit prophetically confirmed for Mary all that the angel had told her regarding her pregnancy. Let us continue.

Luke 1 | Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Mary rightly understood her place, a humble servant, and knew that all generations would caller her blessed. Not by her merit, simply by what God had done for her, to the Glory of His Name. Mary knew a great deal of who Jesus was and His significance for all of mankind. However, there is more… let’s continue reading.

Luke 1 | The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 Andfear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah’s Prophecy

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Mary likely heard these stories, and this prophecy, and knew that John would prepare the way for Jesus. Shortly after His birth, the shepherds came to worship him as they were told by the Angels, the Heavenly Host. Let’s turn to Luke chapter 2.

Luke 2:8-20 (ESV) | The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Now the shepherds relayed what they had been told by the angel of the Lord, that Jesus is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. She knew who Jesus was. Where there things she didn’t know? Sure… she and the disciples never quite understood that Jesus had to die for the sin of all mankind, despite how often He taught them and told them it would be. She and Joseph did receive a prophetic message concerning this… but it didn’t become clear until the events transpired. Let’s continue in the text.

Luke 2:22-38 (ESV) | Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

As we learn in the Gospel according to Matthew, some time after this Herod sought to kill Jesus, and the Holy Spirit warned Joseph in a dream and they fled to Egypt (Matthew 2).

Did Mary anticipate each individual miracle He performed? Probably not, but Mary knew who Jesus was. She and the disciples didn’t understand how dying on the cross could be part of God’s plan, but in His Grace and Mercy He spent time teaching them what it all meant. In closing, I’d like to share my favorite rendition of this Christmas song, “Mary did you know”. I think it is fitting that my favorite version is sung by one who is probably not a Christian… though he might consider himself from “Gospel roots”. Please pray for Cee Lo Green, that he may come to know the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

[youtube http://youtu.be/D1ptNwE7K8o]

Whenever you hear this song this season, know that Mary would likely answer “yes” to most of the lines in this song. The truly important question, is do you know who Jesus is? Do you know that He is returning?

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Christmas | Gospel According to Matthew

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As we move into another Christmas season, we plan on working our way through the Book of Matthew for our Gospel Wednesday study.

On a personal note, I dislike referring to this book (and the other three) as “the Gospel of Matthew”. there is only one Gospel, and that is of Jesus Christ, not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this and when researching the Encyclopedia of the Bible, I found the following discourse on the title of this book:

2. The title. The title of this gospel in most modern Bibles reads, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” This wording is an exact tr. of the title in many Gr. MSS which reads Εὐαγγέλιον Κατα Μαθαῖον, “The Gospel According To Matthew.” But the oldest Gr. copies of the gospel have the shortened form, “According to Matthew” (Κατα Μαθαῖον). Most scholars believe the original text had no title at all. When the early Christians wished to distinguish one gospel from another, they called the first gospel not the “Gospel of Matthew,” as we often say, but “The Gospel According to Matthew,” to distinguish it from the other VSS of Mark, Luke and John. There is only one Gospel, but four VSS or accounts of it. The term “Gospel According to Matthew” is, therefore, not the “Good News of Matthew,” but Matthew’s VS of the “Good News from God.” The Gospel is “God’s Story” of salvation and life, the best news story the world has ever heard. The earliest Church Fathers, for example, Irenaeus (a.d. 180), spoke of the fourfold Gospel canon in this manner; that is, that there is only one Gospel according to four different authors (Against Heresies III. 11, 8).

I will be referring to these from now on as The Gospel According to Matthew. Let us turn to the first chapter of Matthew. It is critically important that we remember that Matthew 1 isn’t the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with His Creation, it is in-fact the start of the final chapter, the last days. God is bringing about the fulfillment of His promise to crush the head of the serpent back in Genesis 3. Let that sink in… while it might be said that for the Gentile everything begins at the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then we have to learn the Law to grow in our faith in God; for Israel, God’s chosen ones, they are awaiting the promised Messiah.

Matthew 1 (ESV)

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

I don’t want to get into the weeds in this geneology, but this was recorded for a purpose, for God the Holy Spirit’s purpose. For now, I want to highlight that Matthew was being very intentional here to point out how perfectly Christ completes God’s Promise to Abraham. He points out the following:

Abraham –  King David – Babylonian Exile – Christ

 God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, and King David ruled over it, but Israel fell away after David, and were sent into Exile. God promised Israel that He would send an Anointed One (Messiah / Christ) to sit on the Throne of David again… and He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus. I feel this is significant for understanding the framework of Matthew’s narrative, considering that the Gospel According to John began “in the Beginning was the Word…”, focusing on the Deity of Christ from before Creation.

Matthew 1 | The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

The Gospel according to Luke spent a great deal of time on Mary and the immaculate conception, but here Matthew jumps straight to Joseph. Here, we see Joseph desiring to show mercy to Mary by not putting her to shame. Apart from the intervention of God the Holy Spirit, there was no way for Mary to be pregnant without having had unlawful sex. Joseph is a popular name in this culture, but have you thought about why? Let’s look back in Genesis at one of the patriarchs whose name was Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel.

Genesis 37:1-3 (ESV) 1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.

Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, loved Joseph more than any other of his sons. He was a favored son, and he made him a robe of many colors. Fast-forward to Matthew, and we have Joseph, favored of God to serve as an earthly guardian of Mary and Jesus. And the angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream. No doubt the Jewish readers/hearers of this Gospel account would already be thinking on Joseph. Where did the dreams given to Joseph, son of Jacob, lead him? To Egypt. Eventually God would preserve Israel in the land of Egypt during the 7 year famine. Let’s continue in Matthew where we will see this connection revisited.

Matthew 2 (ESV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

So we have the Wise Men from the east coming because they recognized the sign in the heavens, a star, marking the birth of the king of the Jews. Where were they from? Most likely from Babylon, from where Israel spent so much time in Exile (remember how Matthew set apart this event as significant). These wise men were not quoting prophecy as we tend to think of quoting, they were giving their understanding of the meaning of two different prophetic passages (Micah 5:2 and Ezekiel 34:23). Quoting the prophets directly wasn’t necessary given their audience was all of the chief priests and scribes, they needed to convey the interpretation that was undoubtedly revealed to them by God of the fulfillment of these 2 prophetic passages. Reflecting on the life of Joseph, son of Israel, notice that this news troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him. This is analogous to the response of Joseph’s brothers. Let’s look at some of the their thoughts toward Joseph recorded in Genesis 37 (ESV):

4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”

They hated their brother. Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled by the news of the birth of the king of the Jews. Now, these parallels aren’t provided to suggest that “they should have seen it coming”; rather, they are being examined to point to God and His Sovereignty. Let’s continue in Matthew 2.

Matthew 2 | The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod was indeed evil. God warned Joseph in a dream (again) of Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, so Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt until Herod’s death. What I find fascinating here is that Matthew (via the Holy Spirit) points to Jesus as a picture of Israel when he quotes Hosea 11:1 (ESV), When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”. This is right in line with how we’ve been reading the Exodus account and how it points to Jesus. This is how the Book of Hebrews approaches the message of the Gospel. Hosea was prophetically looking backward to the shadow of Christ in the Nation of Israel, as well as pointing forward to Jesus the Messiah. Praise God. 

Matthew 2 | The Return to Nazareth

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

With another dream, Joseph brings his wife and Jesus out of Egypt and settled down in Nazareth. Now, there is no direct quote that I could find pointing to His being called a Nazarene. Again, Matthew seems to be conveying understanding of prophecy (revealed by the Holy Spirit) more than actually quoting it. Being called a Nazarene bore with it some disdain, because there was nothing special about Nazareth, and that was part of God’s point. Let’s look at a few verses that suggest this could be a way of rightly understanding this point.

John 7:40-52 (ESV) | Division Among the People
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Had Jesus begun his ministry having grown up in Bethlehem, he would have had instant buy-in. Instead, God chose a different route. Indeed, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, but by the time of His ministry He was known as a Galilean, a Nazarene.

John 1:43-51 (ESV) | Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,“Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nazareth had a reputation. Even Nathanael, of whom Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” held an unfavorable view of Nazareth. How does all of this point to what the Prophet said of Jesus? Let’s look to Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) 3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This was by design, according to His purpose. Jesus humbled Himself in order to redeem mankind. He created all things in the beginning, yet He came to save wicked sinners like you and me. Let us close on this thought, wonderfully conveyed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:1-13 (ESV)

Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Biblical Encouragement and Guidance for the Unwed Christian

dringValentine’s Day is a seriously rough holiday for the unwed Christian. Even for those who reject the holiday openly. But being a single Christian in a world that is completely wrapped up in defining ourselves by sexuality, being Christian while being single gets a lot of mixed messaging throughout the year, not just on February 14th. It was not all that long ago (still less than 10 years) when I counted myself among you. But I failed in more ways that I care to mention, so for this post, it isn’t my authority we will be leaning on. As with all of the Bible Study posts here at Faithful Stewardship, we will be turning to God’s Word. I do want to encourage you in this… having placed my faith fully on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I now live and walk by the Grace of God the Father, and have been made whole, and continue being perfected (exhortation, admonition, repentance, and forgiveness) by His Word and His Holy Spirit. No matter where you are in life, or in your Christian walk, there is always Hope, and He is at the Right Hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. So in Christ, we are made righteous and free to love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and all of our mind. With that encouragement as our focus, let us turn to the Word of God. But first, let’s address some woeful misconceptions about the single life.
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Christmas in Context: Waiting for the consolation of Israel…

Photo by Geoff Robinson

Alec Garrard, 78, has dedicated a massive 33,000 hours to constructing the ancient Herod’s Temple

Luke 2:25(NIV)
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.

No doubt there were many in Jerusalem longing for the consolation of Israel. How long would Israel have to suffer occupation?

Now Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David. Not far from Jerusalem… could there have been some stirring, some rumors, of some shepherds who were tending their flocks by night (Lk 2:8)? I’m thinking that there indeed were many a report, and that the temple was quite a buzz. Given Herod’s paranoia, I imagine the temple courts were filled with a sort of hushed excitement. No doubt teachers and scribes were searching the prophets…

Isaiah 9:2-7 (NIV)
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Those who looked to the Prophet Isaiah likely focused on the underlined portion above. Israel was hurting, a shadow of the kingdom it once was. Isaiah also Prophesied that the divided kingdoms that threatened Judah would be laid to waste and then Judah would be handed over to Assyria (Is 7:14-17). There were many who looked to rebellion/insurgency to fight for Israel’s freedom from occupation… perhaps looking for God to follow the redemption of the past when He would raise up a mighty man who would serve as Judge? But Israel rejected God’s Judges, and rejected His rule and asked for a king. There were others who sought political power and favor with Rome to secure for Israel a sense of freedom, to preserve their ways (while historical accounts outside the Bible attest to this, such a mentality is revealed in the Sanhedren in John 11:45-53). Herod took it upon himself to appoint his own High Priest. It was not long before the birth of Jesus that the Temple was defiled and desecrated. All this is simply to say that since the descendents of Jacob had long stopped going to God for their answers (a rebuke against Israel and Judah in Is 8:19-20) they would become a people stumbling in the darkness (leading into Is 9). The Pharisees and Sadducees were the closest thing to leadership Israel had left. No Judges, no kings, and the prophets have been silent for nearly 400 years. Yet the religious leaders of the day were not in right standing with God. God chose to reveal the announcement of the fulfillment of Is 9:6 to Shepherds rather than the Priests, scholars, and scribes. Even the Magi from the east knew to how to identify the fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2, that out of Bethlehem would be born the ruler over Israel, “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”.  But not everyone was in the dark… and Luke kept a record of 2 who were eagerly awaiting the promise of God… the Messiah.

A man called Simeon

Luke 2:21-35 (NIV)
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon knew who he saw brought into the Temple courts that day. He knew what was prophesied of Him who would bring salvation. He knew this Jesus was the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. And Simeon was ready to be laid to rest… in peace. But Simeon was not alone, Praise God. Just as Simeon had finished Praising God, and speaking blessing over Mary and Joseph, there came another who was waiting faithfully upon the Lord…

A prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel

Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

How cool is God? A man and a woman of God were waiting in the Temple Courts to see the redemption of Jerusalem, the consolation of Israel, the Revelation to the Gentiles… the Salvation of Man. I’m sure they both spread the word, as did the shepherds. So what happened? How could this young family have had any peace? Well, if you’ll remember the account in Matthew 2, the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the one who is born King of the Jews. We don’t know exactly how old Jesus was when the Magi found Him, we just know that they were no longer in the manger; rather, they were now in a house. God sends warning to Joseph to flee to Egypt, and warns the Magi to avoid returning to Herod. So what squashed what would have been the biggest news in Israel? It was not yet Jesus’ time.

Remember Herod? No doubt between the news of what happened in the Temple Courts (the expansion of which was one of Herod’s projects), the visit of the Magi (and subsequent disappearance), and the rumors of Shepherds seeing the Heavenly Hosts… Herod was paranoid of losing his power over the Jews, and his authority under Rome. So, to make a point, he has all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity 2 yrs and younger killed. God hid Jesus in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matt 2:13-20). But when they returned home, it wasn’t to Bethlehem or Jerusalem, but to Nazareth in the north. And so, we have the context of Christmas… the Birth of a Savior.

Luke 2:40 (NIV)
40 And the Child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him.

I pray you remember the Gift of God this Christmas. Don’t let earthly rituals and mammon distract you from the Message of the Birth of a Savior, who was sent to redeem all of Mankind.

In Him,
FS