"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 " (Luke 2:1-7)
Lessons from the birth of Jesus as seen in Mary, Joseph, the Magi, the Shepherds and Jesus:
Mary – humility and worship "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers" (Luke 1:46-55).
Joseph – Graceful, forgiving and quick to obey the Lord – "Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.. And he gave him the name Jesus. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." (See Matthew 1-2)
The Magi – Seekers of God, courageous, worshipers and obedient – Christmas cards and songs often picture the Magi appearing at the manger laying their gifts at the feet of baby Jesus. Though it does not diminish all their qualities listed above, Scripture makes it clear that they came to a "house" (Joseph's and Mary's house in Bethlehem) not the manger and approximately two years after Jesus' birth (See Matthew 2:1-16). It was a long and dangerous journey (appx. 900 miles) to find "the king of the Jews" and upon seeing Him they worshipped Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. "And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country" (See Matthew 2:1-12).
The Shepherds -humble, faithful, worshipers and witnesses. Good shepherds are known to risk their lives to protect their sheep. "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" (Luke 2:8-20).
Jesus, the Man – shows us all that God intended and desired in humanity, the pinnacle of His creation, but now fallen in sin and rebellion. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." "Christ in you (mankind – you, me, all believers) the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). The hope of becoming like Jesus of Whom it is said: "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3). We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved"(Rom. 8:22-24). What is the thrill of hope for which a weary world rejoices? Nothing less that becoming all God intended for us when He created us and died for us – to be like His Son: "God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him" (Rom. 8:29 The Message).
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). God's love in Christ is not warm feelings or passionate pleasure as the world defines love. It is sacrificial giving; laying down or egos, our personal agendas, our "rights" as Jesus did, by entering a cruel and hostile world in the womb of a powerless peasant girl whom He created, to giving Himself to a cruel and hostile legion of soldiers who would later crucify Him on a cruel and shameful cross for our salvation and His Father's glory. And the Spirit of God through His servant Paul calls us to be like Him:
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:1-11)