After the first American astronaut landed on the moon, the President of the United States praised this wonder of modern science. He said, “The planting of human feet on the moon is the greatest moment in human history!” Later, evangelist Billy Graham made this comment: “With all due respect”, he said, “the greatest moment in human history was not when man set foot on the moon, but when the infinite and eternal God set foot on this earth in Jesus of Nazareth!” Just how significant is the birth of Jesus Christ in our world today?
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S BIRTH
The year is 2012 A.D., isn’t it? As you probably know, the letters A.D. are an abbreviation for two Latin words: “anno Domini”, a phrase which means “in the year of the Lord”. Events prior to Jesus’ birth are dated B.C., that is, “before Christ”. Everything in history is dated from the time when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Every newspaper and magazine, every official document gives testimony to Christ’s birth.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING HIS BIRTH (Luke 2:1-20)
Yet when we look at the circumstances surrounding His birth, we see poverty and humility. But from these circumstances, and the symbolism in them, we can gain valuable insight into why the Lord Jesus was born. Let’s take a closer look at this passage of Scripture: Luke chapter 2, verses one to twenty.
In verses 1 to 6, we read that Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken of the whole Roman empire. Joseph and Mary were forced to make an eighty mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they belonged to the descendants of David. Caesar didn’t know it, but he was doing an errand for God, so that Micah’s prophecy in Micah 5:2 would be fulfilled. The Savior of the world was to be born in the city of Bethlehem.
In verse 7, Mary brought forth her child alone. There was no midwife; there were no friends and no family, except her husband, Joseph. Similarly, at the end of Jesus’ life, as He hung dying on a cross, there was only a handful of His family and friends close to him. Verse 7 also says, “they wrapped Him in cloths. The Greek word literally means “to swaddle” or to wrap in strips of cloth. This was often the way dead bodies were wrapped in preparation for burial.
Verse 7 also says that they laid the newborn baby Jesus in a manger – a feeding trough for animals. Jesus was born in a stable, a place for sheep and cattle. There were probably many lambs under the same roof with the baby Jesus. This is significant because, before Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
From verses 8-20, we learn that the only other people to see the newborn baby Jesus were the shepherds. And these were no ordinary shepherds. The Jewish book of legal codes, called the “Mishnah”, prohibited the tending of flocks of sheep throughout the land of Israel, except in the wilderness areas, because sheep were unclean animals. The only exception was the flocks used for the temple sacrifices. These sheep were killed and offered up as sacrifices for the sins of the people.
III. WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST BORN
Why was Jesus Christ born? What is the true meaning of Christmas? I found out the answer to that question in 1970. Have you ever had a miserable Christmas? Well, Christmas of 1970 had all the indications of being the worst Christmas I would ever experience. It was Christmas eve, and I was in the Air Force, stationed at a remote base in northern Thailand. I was away from my family and friends, and there was no “Christmas spirit” in me. I was on a bus headed into town to attend a Bible study at the Christian Servicemen’s Center. I had been going there for several weeks, hoping to find some answers to life. The director of the center must have noticed my despondency because he asked me if I would mind staying for a while after the Bible study. He said he had something he wanted to talk to me about. I had nothing else going on that evening so I agreed.
He began by asking me this question: “If you died tonight, and you stood before God in judgment, and God said, ‘Tom, give me one reason why I should let you into My heaven’, what would you say?” I don’t remember what the Bible study was about that night, nor who was there, but I do remember the joy and peace I experienced when I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life as my Savior and Lord. I also remember smiling as I rode back to the base on the 10:00 p.m. bus. I was probably the only serviceman who was smiling and who wasn’t drunk! On Christmas Day I had no Christmas tree and no presents, but I had more joy than I had ever experienced. I spent most of Christmas Day reading the New Testament Scriptures. It was a new book to me because I was now a child of God. If you want to know more about what I learned, and what happened to me that night, it’s all in the ABOUT PAGE of this blog.
The real joy of Christmas comes when we discover the true meaning of Christmas. Why did Jesus Christ come to earth? Let’s allow Jesus to answer that question for Himself. In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For the Son of man also came, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” In the midst of shopping for presents, sending cards, and putting up decorations, is there room in your heart for Jesus?