Today and tomorrow we are focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. What a wonderful celebration! Most of what we will focus on is reading the account of his birth. Not much discussion but a few comments here and there!
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
Luke 1:5-25 NIV
Jesus was not the only miraculous birth at this time! Although Jesus’ birth was made much more miraculous because of who he was and because his mother was a virgin, John’s birth was very miraculous as well. We can see in this passage that the first miracle associated with Jesus’ first coming was the miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth. She was barren and past child-bearing age, yet she would give birth to the man who would prepare Israel for Jesus’ coming. He was so important that he was filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb!! We will get to this in a moment!
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38 NIV
Mary also gets an angelic visit and discovers she will birth the savior!!! Talk about emotions! She wasn’t married, she had never had sexual intercourse, her son was going to be the savior, and she had to raise him! Talk about being overwhelmed! But her response was simple, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Wow!
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:39-45 NIV
Of course Mary would go visit her cousin Elizabeth. Despite their significant age differences, Elizabeth was the one person on earth who could truly understand what Mary was going through. This is where we see that John was already full of the Holy Spirit. He leapt in the womb when he felt Jesus’ presence!!! And what did the women do? Praise God of course! Mary even sang a song.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
Luke 1:57-66 NIV
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
Luke 1:80 NIV
John is born and Zechariah gets back his voice! What a day to celebrate! Zechariah celebrated by singing! And it won’t be long before John’s cousin, Jesus, is born.
Before Jesus was born, another angelic visit needed to happen. Joseph needed a word from God too. You see, he was doubting. Sometimes, when we start to doubt, we need a word from God to set us straight. That is was God did for Joseph.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet 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.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 NIV
Joseph was trying to do the right thing by Mary and by the law. Yet God was working a plan. He had to get Joseph on the same page. Joseph, being a righteous man, obeyed the angel and did as he was told to do. Sometimes, God calls us to do things that seem odd to us. They may not make sense at all! Our response should be like Joseph; to follow and obey.
Matthew and Luke also give us the genealogy of Jesus. This is very important as it shows that Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of prophecy. It is absolutely fascinating to see who is in the line of Jesus! If you want to read it, you can do so here and here.
These are the events leading up to the birth of Christ! So exciting! Three angelic visits, two birthing miracles, a baby filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and a miraculous taking away and restoring of Zechariah’s speech. Wow!
And what faith that is exhibited! No matter how they responded initially, they all responded in faith. Some took a little longer than others, some needed a little convincing, but they all responded in faith
Your birth is such an amazing event! Thank you for all the wonder and excitement around your birth! Thank you for fulfilling prophecy and for caring enough about me to leave heaven and all of your glory. Be with me this holiday and help me to keep the focus on your amazing birth! It is something worth celebrating and should not be overlooked! Help me to keep you the focus of this season.
- What things in your life overwhelm you right now?
- Is God asking you to respond in faith? What about?
- Are you willing to answer like Mary or Joseph did? Are you skeptical, like Zechariah was?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in to the right decision in how to respond?