From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Gracious Lord, we are grateful for the message that you came in Christ Jesus long ago to save us from our sins and assure us that you can well understand our suffering and difficult days, because through Christ, you took on human flesh and therefore you are able to empathize with our humanity. We praise you for Christ's example and life and acknowledge His greatness as we depend upon your grace. In His name. Amen.
"...He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord
His God, and they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and He will
be their shalom..." Micah 5:4-5 [from the 7th Century before Jesus of Nazareth]
"...so Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the City 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 swaddling cloths and placed Him in
a manger, because thee was no room for them in the inn..." Luke 2:4-7 [seven centuries later]
It had been rainy and really cold outside. As Joseph and Mary sat on somewhat uncomfortable bales of hay, reflecting upon the events of the last several months, and in particular, the last several days, they wondered if there might be an accommodation available in Bethlehem, that they could afford. It had been a long and difficult trek to Bethlehem. To add to that, my goodness, Jesus was already two days along in this world and the parents needed a more fitting place to take care of him. After all, they had traveled on foot the entire distance. Thank God that Mary was quite young, being nine months pregnant, and walking the whole way. It must have been extremely trying and uncomfortable. The place where they were just was not appropriate.
Joseph and Mary had no idea that the Emperor Augustus was part of God's plan to fulfill His Word in Scripture, namely, in the Prophet Micah 5:2, "...but you, Bethlehem (the walled city), though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me 'One' who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times..."
The angel who greeted young Mary in the grotto, up there eighty miles away in Nazareth, said the child Mary would give birth to, would be called "the Son of the Most High" and that He would "reign over the House of Jacob forever" and, indeed, that "His kingdom would never end". She was to call him, yes, "Ya'shua", that is to say, Jesus. It seemed hard to believe that a boy from such a humble, such a poor family, would become so great a man. It would have been impossible for both Mary and Joseph to believe these things, had it not been for the glorious appearance of Gabriel.
First, the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would become pregnant by the divine power of the Holy Spirit, and then, when Joseph reacted quite reasonably, to put her away quietly---after what Mary related to him what was going to happen---he really couldn't believe what Mary shared, even though he wanted to. I mean, after all, who would? Your girl-friend tells you that God made her pregnant. Who would swallow that one? ...maybe somebody at the movies...
Gabriel had to get back to Joseph to give him the news. It was for real. She was pregnant by supernatural means. She would give birth to a very, very special child. He would be the guardian of that child. His lineage would be essential in this regard. Through Joseph's blood line, the child would inherit the throne of King David, His ancestor, who had ruled a thousand years before in Israel. Yes, poor unheralded Joseph was of David's royal line. This would fulfill the prophesy of 1 Samuel 7:12,16: "...when your days are over, David, and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your descendent to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish His kingdom...your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me...your throne will be established forever..." In retrospect, this became fact through the Christian Church that Jesus would eventually establish through His disciples thirty-three years later.
There is an image that comes to mind that seems significant for those of us who enjoy considering huge contrasts, inconsistencies if you will, in the way we look at things. To think for an extended moment of the Co-Creator of the entire Universe, our solar System, the "black holes in space", and the vastness of all else that is out there, in the arms of a teenage girl, woman if you prefer, solely dependent upon her for his very sustenance. It is a powerful notion. It speaks to the responsibility God places into our hands as we take care of His kingdom here on earth. Imagine how important we are in terms of salvation and service.
All of a sudden, putting everything together, we get the impression that Jesus was not a last-minute thought in the mind of God the Father. As we continue to get deeper into the Scriptures we note something like over six-hundred different references in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) to the life and ministry of this child, Jesus of Nazareth.
One portion of that body of literature is especially meaningful when we come to realize that it was written
seven hundred years before the event we're talking about this morning, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Here's the passage from the four "Servant Chapters" of Isaiah 42, 43, 49 and 53, especially Isaiah 53:
"...He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted...just as there were many who were appalled at Him,
His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and His form marred beyond human likeness,
so will He sprinkle many nations..." Isaiah 52:13-15a
"...He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering...like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we didn't give Him a lift..." verse 3
"...surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considering Him---stricken by God---smitten by God, and afflicted, but He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brings us peace (shalom) was put upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed..."
"...though He had done no violence nor was any deciet in His mouth, yet it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer..." verse 9b,10
"...after the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life, and find satisfaction...by His knowledge... my 'righteous servant' will justify many and He will bear their iniquities..." verse 11
The purpose in Jesus' birth is that He would become Emmanuel, that is, "God with us"...not God up there in the sky somewhere...but God "present" right there with us...God with us in the midst of personal suffering, experiencing loss of loved ones, of being paralyzed by fear, in some of the pathetic and sad situations of life, and of physical pain. We are put on notice. We will need to bear the Cross at times. Christ's job is to go there with us. Pain and suffering is part of the journey.
When we experience pain, we don't need to think that we are going through something that God has not gone through, or experienced. Through the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ God, our Creator, is able to empathize with us in the valleys of life...as well as being there with us as we celebrate life. In a strange and wonderful way, our walk with God as our divine companion is made complete through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He is our Emmanuel.
...Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die on the cross in Jerusalem...