I would like to believe that most of us living in America know the real story behind Christmas. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that is true anymore. Today, many kids are being raised to believe in Santa then they are ever (if ever) taught about Jesus. Of course, that speaks to the issue of what their parents believe, and possibly how they were raised, too. Other than a surface glance at a religious/formal version of Jesus who appears to be anything but human except as a sweet little baby in a manger, they might wonder what Jesus could possibly have to do with them and the way they live their own lives today. And it’s a sad state of affairs that we learn to believe mostly in ourselves and to keep Jesus at a distance if we acknowledge Him at all.
Unless we are shopping in a specifically Christian store, we rarely find anything beyond Santa and all of his enticing presents glistening in store windows and aisles in the malls of America. And it’s been this way for a very long time, too. So long, in fact, that the younger generations among us often have no idea who Jesus really is and they don’t pay much attention, either. Their technology can do more for them then they think any Jesus might be able to do for them. And the version of Jesus they may get (if they get any version of Him at all) is rather weak and placid, which is absolutely nothing like the real Jesus that previous generations laid down their very lives to serve.
In fact, the Bible tells the story of many, many people who gave up own their lives to serve Him (the twelve disciples as well as the Apostle Paul are classic examples, see also the people listed in Hebrews 11), and there have been many more down through the ages, too. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor during the time of Hitler’s reign, comes to mind from the 20th Century (he lost his life at the age of 39 in 1945 right before the end of World War II). And it was Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador, who was murdered by them in 1956 at the age of 29. It was Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (quote source here). His wife, Elizabeth Elliot, later spent two years as a missionary (along with her infant daughter) to the tribe members who killed her husband, returning to the United States after many years in South America. She died recently on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88.
If we don’t believe there is actual power and forgiveness in the name of Jesus, we will never understand what He is all about and why He came in the first place. There is more power in the name of Jesus then in all the technological wonders available in our world today. But do we really believe that? We often only believe in what we can actually see and experience (or manipulate) until something comes along that rocks us to our very core and we have nowhere else to run.
But back to the topic at hand . . . Christmas. Another Christmas is rolling around, and commercialism reigns supreme once again during this season. However, there is One who transcends it all, and this is the story of His birth and early childhood (from Luke 2):
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Jesus Presented in the Temple
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 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.”
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 upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you 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.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 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.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
The Boy Jesus at the Temple
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . .
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In an article titled, “The Portrait of Christ,” by Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), Dr. Rogers clearly shows how Jesus Christ is pictured in the Old Testament and how He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy:
[Jesus stated] “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
We now have available, instantaneously, the wisdom of the ages. Or do we? We have the ability to read or hear or view the opinion or beliefs of anyone who thinks they are an intellect.
Now intellect is a wonderful thing.
• You can understand biology, but if you don’t know the Giver of life, you’re still uneducated.
• You can comprehend geology, but if you don’t know the Rock of Ages, you don’t really know anything of importance.
• You can know all about botany, but if you haven’t met the Lily of the Valley, your knowledge is useless.
You can know all the facts of history, but if you reject the central figure of history, your time has been wasted.
• The wise man who doesn’t know God is ignorant.
• The strong man who doesn’t know God is weak.
• The rich man who doesn’t know God is poor.
Only the Lord can fulfill all our needs and answer all our questions. Jesus came to fulfill all things.
The Lord said He had come to fulfill the prophets. The historical figure of Christ is the secret to understanding the Bible. Everywhere you look in Scripture, you see the writer pointing toward Christ.
In Luke 24:27, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two forlorn followers and began teaching them the secret to Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” The Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ. Every story and every event leads directly to the Savior.
In John 5:39, the Lord Jesus told His followers to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Of course, the New Testament had not yet been written, so Jesus is telling His disciples to explore the Old Testament writings, because they all point toward Him.
As you read through God’s Word, see how it points you to Jesus.
• Christ is the Seed of woman and in Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.
• In Exodus we find the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.
• In Leviticus we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people, and Christ has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
• In Deuteronomy Moses prophesied of a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself. Jesus is that Great Prophet.
• In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s host. That man is Jesus Christ.
• In Judges, the leaders were judges who delivered God’s people, each of them typifying the Lord Jesus.
• Boaz, the kinsman who redeemed Ruth‘s inheritance, is a picture of Christ.
• David, the anointed one, pictures Jesus and Jesus is described as being the Son of David.
• In 2 Samuel when the king is being enthroned, the entire scene is descriptive of the Lord Jesus.
• The books of Kings speak of the glory of God filling the temple and the Chronicles describe the glorious coming king, both referring to Jesus, the King of Kings.
• Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers.
• Esther offers a picture of Christ interceding for His people.
• Job says clearly that the Redeemer is coming!
• Christ appears time after time in the Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd.”
• Isaiah details His glorious birth.
• Jeremiah reveals that He will be acquainted with sorrows.
• Joel describes Him as the Hope of His people.
• Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations.
• Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom.
• Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.
• Zephaniah says that He will be the king over Israel.
• Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt.
• Malachi is the one who calls Him the Son of Righteousness.
Can you see it? The entire Old Testament points toward Jesus as Savior, and if you miss that, you’ve missed the entire point of the Scriptures. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy.
The New Testament opens up with the birth of Jesus Christ in the four Gospel accounts that also include details of his life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection. GotQuestions.org gives us the reason why there are four specific Gospel accounts:
While the entire Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), He used human authors with different backgrounds and personalities to accomplish His purposes through their writing. Each of the gospel authors had a distinct purpose behind his gospel and in carrying out those purposes, each emphasized different aspects of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Matthew was writing to a Hebrew audience, and one of his purposes was to show from Jesus’ genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He was the long-expected Messiah, and thus should be believed in. Matthew’s emphasis is that Jesus is the promised King, the “Son of David,” who would forever sit upon the throne of Israel (Matthew 9:27; 21:9).
Mark, a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), was an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ as well as being a friend of the apostle Peter. Mark wrote for a Gentile audience, as is brought out by his not including things important to Jewish readers (genealogies, Christ’s controversies with Jewish leaders of His day, frequent references to the Old Testament, etc.). Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Luke, the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14 KJV), evangelist, and companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the apostles. Luke is the only Gentile author of the New Testament. He has long been accepted as a diligent master historian by those who have used his writings in genealogical and historical studies. As a historian, he states that it is his intent to write down an orderly account of the life of Christ based on the reports of those who were eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). Because he specifically wrote for the benefit of Theophilus, apparently a Gentile of some stature, his gospel was composed with a Gentile audience in mind, and his intent is to show that a Christian’s faith is based upon historically reliable and verifiable events. Luke often refers to Christ as the “Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity, and he shares many details that are not found in the other gospel accounts.
The gospel of John, written by John the apostle, is distinct from the other three Gospels and contains much theological content in regard to the person of Christ and the meaning of faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” because of their similar styles and content and because they give a synopsis of the life of Christ. The gospel of John begins not with Jesus’ birth or earthly ministry but with the activity and characteristics of the Son of God before He became man (John 1:14). The gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Christ, as is seen in his use of such phrases as “the Word was God” (John 1:1), “the Savior of the World” (John 4:42), the “Son of God” (used repeatedly), and “Lord and…God” (John 20:28). In John’s gospel, Jesus also affirms His deity with several “I Am” statements; most notable among them is John 8:58, in which He states that “…before Abraham was, I Am” (compare to Exodus 3:13-14). But John also emphasizes the fact of Jesus’ humanity, desiring to show the error of a religious sect of his day, the Gnostics, who did not believe in Christ’s humanity. John’s gospel spells out his overall purpose for writing: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Thus, in having four distinct and yet equally accurate accounts of Christ, different aspects of His person and ministry are revealed. Each account becomes like a different-colored thread in a tapestry woven together to form a more complete picture of this One who is beyond description. And while we will never fully understand everything about Jesus Christ (John 20:30), through the four Gospels we can know enough of Him to appreciate who He is and what He has done for us so that we may have life through faith in Him. (Quote source and entire article at this link.)
And in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus is presented as the “Alpha and Omega, First and the Last” (Rev. 1: 8-13), “Son of Man” (Rev. 1:13), “Son of God” (Rev. 2:18), “Faithful and True Witness” (Rev 3:14), “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14), “the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), and “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). And He will soon rule the nations (Rev. 22:16-21; also see this link at GotQuestions.org).
Jesus Christ is far more that a sweet little baby sleeping in a manger . . . .
He’s Alpha and Omega . . .
He’s the Beginning and the End . . . .
He is the great “I AM” . . . .
The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.
(from “Mary Did You Know”)
YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd: