Through the Old Testament prophet Micah, God had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem…are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past” (Micah 5:2). So it was no accident that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Before the world was created, God knew that around the year 6 B.C. the leader of the Roman Empire would decree that a census be taken of all the people in his domain. For that reason, Joseph and Mary had to journey about 65 miles to register in the town of Joseph’s ancestor, David.
When we think about Jesus being born, we often imagine a picture similar to what we’ve seen on the front of Christmas cards: a soft golden glow surrounding a beautiful mother with a baby in her arms, as her husband and the animals of the manger scene adoringly watch. But Jesus’ birth was not such a pretty picture. First, giving birth to a baby is not an easy thing to do—just ask your mom about when you were born! Then ask her how she would have enjoyed delivering you in a stinky barn, right on the floor, after several days of traveling! That is probably how Jesus was born. Mary laid him in a manger, which is a nice word for an animal feeding trough. How would you like to sleep in a box where animals had eaten and slobbered? Jesus went through a lot of trouble to become a human being, and that shows us how much He loves us.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph complained to each other about all their troubles. Just to register their names in Bethlehem, they had to make a long journey when Mary was very pregnant, and Mary had to give birth in very unpleasant surroundings. They probably didn’t realize that they were right in the center of God’s will, fulfilling an ancient prophecy. We often grumble about circumstances in our lives when we don’t see God’s plan. But if we could see our circumstances through God’s eyes, we would rejoice. And so we should!
God’s perspective of Mary and Joseph’s plight was revealed to the shepherds of today’s reading. The multitude of angels that God allowed them to see were praising God because the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior, had been born! At that time, it was the greatest event of history! Those angels had been sent from heaven to tell them the wonderful news because God was so excited about the birth of His Son. Just like when you were born, your dad wanted everyone to know about it!
Q. Why are we certain that the prophet Micah, in his prophecy about a ruler coming from Bethlehem, was talking about Jesus, and not some other ruler of Israel?
A. We are certain because Micah identified that ruler as being someone “whose origins are from the distant past” (see Micah 5:2). The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time knew that Micah could have only been speaking of the Messiah, even if they didn’t understand that the Messiah would be God Himself, who existed from eternity (see Matt. 2:3-6).
Q. Looking back at your life, do you think that anything has happened to you that you complained about at the time, but that God was excited about because He could see the whole picture? Could that be true of anything you are complaining about right now in your life?
Application: The Bible says,”God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). God doesn’t cause all things, and not all things are good, but God does cause all things to work together for good. Since that’s true, we should maintain a good attitude, even when things don’t go the way we want them to.
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