The Story of Christmas : Part V

MAGI_bl_and_wh_following-starAfter Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, behold wise men, philosophers, priests, and astronomers, learned men of the Eastern nations, came to Jerusalem, to Herod. Now Herod the Great, the son of Antipater, being appointed by Rome was the king of Judea. In this day of our Lord’s birth the scepter had departed from Judah, a foreigner being upon David’s throne.

So the Magi came to the king and spoke, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? Long we have traveled to come to this land, for we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him. Is this not foretold?”

A star will come out of Jacob;

a scepter will rise out of Israel.

                        ~Numbers 24:17

“We have seen this omen of some remarkable event, a light that shines in a dark place. So we have come to seek out the source of this heavenly apparition, to learn what He has to teach us. It was His light that guided us to this place.”

The people who walked in darkness

Have seen a great light;

Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,

Upon them a light has shined.

                                    ~Isaiah 9:2

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, for his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Fear for his kingship grew as he pondered all the Magi spoke. For the king knew the prophecy well:

The scepter will not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,

until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,

the one whom all nations will honor.

                                    ~Genesis 10:49

So Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, inquiring of them where the long expected Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;

For out of you shall come a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

                                  ~ Matthew 2:6

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

For often it is that wicked people conceal, under a mantle of deceit, their evil designs, cloaked beneath the appearance of pious ambition. And so it was fulfilled as the scriptures foretold, even as the new-born King lay within the stone-cradle, that the government should be upon His shoulder.

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy, these Magi of the East, a noble witness of His divinity from heaven, and of His kingly estate from strangers.

The Star, the harbinger of hope, led them on to the Christ Child. For any who seek the Blessed Savior, God will guide; even if for a time it seems the Light has gone out, yet holding fast, it will reappear, to direct all who look, in the way to the Redeemer, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

As the wise men entered into the house, they saw the Child, great and beautiful, with Mary His mother. In heavenly homage they fell down upon their faces and worshiped Him, for they had found what they sought, the Christ, the King of kings.

These who were esteemed, cast down their high standing before Him who sits on the throne, and they worshiped Him who lives forever and ever, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,

To receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things,

And by Your will they exist and were created.”

                                    ~ Revelation 4:11

And in the illumination of the Savior, they took the gifts that they possessed, and having opened them, laid them at the feet of the Master, as all must do who serve. In humble and lovely reverence they gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Gold as tribute to the King;Adoration-of-the-Magi-c_-1725

Frankincense, a fragrant aroma, an offering to God;

Myrrh, bitter herb, for embalming the dead.

King, Lord, Savior.

The One to reign, rule, and redeem.

~

“Hast thou not a heart, though unworthy of Him, dark, hard, and foul?

Give it to him as it is, and be willing that He use and dispose of it as it pleases Him;

He will take it, and will make it better,

and thou shalt never repent having given it to Him.

He shall frame it to His own likeness,

and will give thee Himself, and be thine forever.”

~ Matthew Henry

~

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,

Preached among the Gentiles,

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory.

                        ~1 Timothy 3:16

Have a Blessed Christmas

~ Susan

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The Story of Christmas : Part IV

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, and the sky closed dark and still, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

In simplicity of devoutness and faith, they forsook all, those shepherds to whom the angels spoke, and went to find the Savior. With eagerness of spirit they came in haste to the place of where they were told. The path was dark after the glory displayed by the heavenly messengers, yet they ventured on into the swarthy night, until at last, they came upon a stable hewn into the side of the hill. Slowly they peered into the illuminated camber, eager, yet with trepidation, as the anticipation pulled at their hearts.

As they entered into the room, there they found Mary, and Joseph, and just as the angels had said, the Babe lying in a manger. When they looked upon the Child, they knew it was He, the One foretold. This new-born King, this Messiah, he looked through time directly into their hearts. And in the eyes of the Christ Child, they saw the abiding love that would suffer all things for them and on bended knee they fell and worshiped Him.

Now when the shepherds had seen Him, their hearts were full. Abounding in hope and faith, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. Not being able to contain all that they had seen, with exultation overflowing, they went out proclaiming the day of the Lord. And all those who heard it marveled at what was told them by the shepherds.

But Mary gathered all that had happened, all that was said, and placing them in her heart, pondered and cherished them. Delicate and beautiful, a mother’s heart, that kept them, resolved them, locked away in her very being, all those things respecting her child. Treasured up in her memory, she carried them always until the time would come for all to be revealed

Then the shepherds returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, of the Babe in the manger, of the Christ Child that had come.

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas: Part III

shepherds-see-new-star-39535-galleryNow in that same country, through the watches of the night, there were shepherds tending their flocks. The lonely melody of the flute floated through the dark sky as a shepherd boy soothed the sheep with his song, lulling the flock into a torpid lassitude. The glittering orbs of the starlit sky winked down upon the hapless boys who looked well to their charge. As the migratory flock rested upon a bed of green grass, a stillness settled over the watch fires.

Suddenly, with tremulous power the heavens unfurled, the night sky aflame in glory. With shattering opulence, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, His glory rebounding. In the presence of the magnificent splendor, the shepherds trembled, all their sin laid bare before them and they fell upon their faces in fear and doubt.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, both wonderful and amazing to behold, which will be to all people.”

With trepidation, the shepherd boys lifted their eyes to look upon the messenger of the Lord. In the watchfulness of his beauty they despaired. Yet there was something in his voice which drew courage from their souls as they listened to the words spoken.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; He is the Good Shepherd foretold, the Messiah spoken of by the prophets, the anointed of the Lord; Prophet, Priest and King. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

By three tokens you shall know Him: The Babe, the swaddle, and the manger.

In this manner you shall find the Child, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. Amazing contrast there shall be, for it was by this birth the Savior of all has chosen to come.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

that though He was rich,

yet for your sakes He became poor,

that you through His poverty might become rich.

                        ~2 Corinthians 8:9

For pride is the character of all the children of Adam, but humility the mark of the Son of God. By humility Christ comes to reign, for it is by these means only, one may enter into His kingdom.

Then suddenly on high, the heavenly vision all encompassing, ruptured the sky. Oh, magnificent appellation! A multitude of the heavenly host, heralds of the new-born King, descended from on high, who compass the majesty of God round and filled the air with lofty strains, “The way of peace is thrown open to all people, by reconciling the world to God by His atonement.”

The angelic beings transferring their exalted station, bent to the poor earth and with pure voices proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

And as the morning stars sang together, the foundation of man’s soul was laid; the cornerstone of man’s salvation set in the incarnation of the Son of God, inducing man to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God’s redeeming love. (Albert Barnes)

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas: Part II

ArtBook__029_029__JosephAndMaryTravelToBethlehem____And it came to pass in the fullness of time that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Judea, being a province of the Roman Empire was pressed to respond to the mandate. So all went, as ordained, to be enrolled in the census; everyone to his own city, to the place of his birth, to be counted according to the will of Caesar.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, to the city of David, to Bethlehem, the house of bread as it was called.  Bread made from the stalks of grain that sustain man from day to day, for without bread there is no life. So Joseph went because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

It was there in the city of Bethlehem, within the hills of Judea, that the Bread of Life should come forth, to provide salvation for a hungry world; the bread which came down from heaven, and gives life to the whole earth. For the world was hungry. He came to give us our daily bread, life giving nourishment for our soul. Bread broken for His people.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrata,

Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me

The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,

From everlasting.”

                                    ~ Micah 5:2

So the prophet spoke, yet these two weary travelers, Joseph and Mary with him, had little thought that their very journey was in keeping with the scriptures; that in going forth to Bethlehem, they were in fact fulfilling what was foretold, that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Christ.

Bethlehem, a city bustling with people, travelers all, who like Joseph, had left hearth and home to venture forth to the land of their heritage. And like him, they crowded into the city already bursting with people, filling every inn, every home that could take them in, until at last, no more could be received. Evening had come upon them. Firelight illuminated the dwellings that lined the dusty streets. The smell of bread and roasted meat rose to inflame their empty stomachs, as Joseph and his betrothed, overwhelmed with weariness, searched in vain for a place to stay the night. “No room,” was the message at every door.

Exhausted, Mary struggled as the discomfort in her body grew, for the days were completed that she should be delivered. Though calm for the sake of his beloved, fear grew within the heart of Joseph as he, with desperate effort, attempted to provide for the safe delivery of mother and child.

Then, in mercy, an inn keeper’s wife, seeing the couple in their distress, took them to the stable, a place where the animals of travelers were kept. It was nothing more than a sheepfold, a stable of stone, a rock-cave carved into the side of a hill. But it was warm and dry and there was fresh straw.

So it was that Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, the hope and glory of all lands. Wrapping Him in swaddling clothes, she laid Him in a manger, a feeding trough of beasts. In this lowly estate, the King of kings, entered into the world, clothed in the raiment of humanity, born to wear not a gilded diadem, but a crown of thorns.

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas: Part I

The angel Gabriel appears to the virgin Mary in 1898′s ‘The Annunciation’ by Pennsylvania artist Henry Ossawa Tanner

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, even as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses of these happenings. (Luke 1:1-2) For as with one, death entered into the world, so too with One, life was returned. (Romans 5:12) It is upon these events that all our hope rests.

Over two thousand years have passed since these accounts took place, in the distant land of Judea. Yet these occurrences have changed the course of all life upon the face of the earth. For it was upon this night that hope returned to a fallen race, destined for destruction.

The night was cool and fair. Shadows were cast about the room as the moon rose to meet the starlit sky. A gentle breeze blew in through the open window as the young girl lay quietly upon her mat. Suddenly a light grew in the heavens, moving swiftly toward the town of Nazareth in Galilee, and to the little house where the virgin slept. The burnished rays drew near until the radiance filled the room.

Mary, this young girl, promised in marriage to the man Joseph, this Mary, feeling a stirring in her soul, sat up. Light suffused her dwelling, driving the shadows from her room. She was moved at the strangeness of the moment. Her heart began to race; her breath came up short. Before her stood an angelic being, imbued with consuming splendor.

Entering in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

She took in a ragged breath as a tear escaped her eye, her mouth gapping as she began to tremble. His saying troubled her, as she considered what manner of greeting this was.

Then the angel spoke, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” His voice, rich and textured in beauty, flowed sweetly from his lips, caressing the air with its velvet resonance. The sound of her name spoken filled her with the warm feeling of being well known, as though this angelic personage had been by her side since she had taken her first breath.

Gathering her courage, Mary found her voice and spoke softly, “Who are you, lord?”

“I am Gabriel, sent by God. I am he who serves the Lord who is to be born. Five hundred years it has been since I gave this message to the man Daniel. I am here to proclaim that the time is now fulfilled.”

Mary let out the breath she had been holding. In awe and wonder she looked into the glory of the light.

Again the angel spoke as he smiled down at the trembling girl. “I come with a message of peace and hope for all peoples. You, my child, shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus, a Savior to His people.”

As the angel spoke the name Jesus, a wave of peace flooded Mary’s soul; at the sound of this name, power entered the room, and she perceived that this name was not like any other she had heard. It was as freshness to the spirit, a cool breeze that engulfed her very being with newness and hope.

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. It is as the prophet spoke.”

“For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end.”

                                                ~ Isaiah 9:6

Mary began to tremble, and in amazement questioned, “How can this be? For though I am betrothed to the man Joseph, I have not known him?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “This child born, this Son given, shall be conceived by the Holy Spirit, his body by direct creation pure and holy, the Son of the Living God. God manifest in the flesh, for with God nothing will be impossible.”

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,

and will call him Immanuel.”

~Isaiah 7:14

So Mary, in submission and faith spoke, “Behold the willing servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word.”

Then the angel departed. Mary sat upon her mat in the darkness of her room, her hand resting upon her abdomen in expectant apprehension and thought of all that was to come. Softly she whispered, “Emmanuel, God with us.”

~ Susan