The Christmas Story

Without a doubt Christmas has become the best known holiday period world – wide. And although it’s purpose is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ it has become surrounded by myths and legends; and with a serious rival in the person of Santa Claus.

Further, atheists would, if they could, eliminate all religious references, and simply call it ‘the winter holiday’.

However, the Bible tells us, without any legendary adornments and additions, that Christ was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. The historic story is beautiful and dramatic enough without legendary or mythical additions, and as with everything else, we should go to the Bible and accept what it says, because it is the Word of God and we must neither take from it nor add to it.

A better title than Christmas for this time of the year would be the ‘The Nativity of Jesus Christ’, or perhaps, ‘The Story of God Incarnate’.

The Christmas holiday period ought certainly to celebrate the most important birth of all time, and committed Christians should give an example by combining joyous worship, with the members of their local church, and a celebratory meal at home with the family; and perhaps  inviting to be with them someone who is living alone and in need. They should also take the opportunity during this season of good will to evangelize and win souls for Christ.

Don’t forget, that if there are children present at the family celebrations, to tell them, without any legendary additions, that you are celebrating  Jesus’ birth; and if there are older children, read it to them from the Bible using both  Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.

Jesus, of course, was not born on the 25th of December, this date being arbitrarily chosen and imposed on what had been a pagan holiday.  The Bible does not give us the date of his birth, but it certainly gives us many details about it, and, above all, the reason why Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth.

The angel said to Joseph - She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins – Matthew 1: 21

Note: The Name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Joshua which means – ‘Jehovah saves’. It was Joshua, not Moses, who led the Children of Israel across the river Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses represents the Law, and the Law cannot save, it can only condemn, it is God himself, in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, who saves us; and by his grace alone takes us into heaven.

For it is be grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2: 8

Jesus was full of compassion, he healed the sick, he fed the hungry, and his teaching was without par, but the principal reason for his coming was to die on the Cross and save us from our sins.

The angel announced to the shepherds – “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 Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” – Luke 2: 10 & 11

The angel’s first words tell us not to fear. And Christian believers have every reason not to be fearful, for even the final enemy of mankind, death, has been conquered. And so the good news of Christ’s birth speaks, not only of this life, but of the life to come.

Let Christ be birthed in your heart and life this Christmas and know the joy and certainty of eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life – John 3: 16

It is good to note that the story of Christ’s birth is firmly grounded on historical truth. Bethlehem (the town of David) where he was born can be visited today, and as the gospel writer Luke begins to relate the story of the birth of Jesus we read - In those days Caesar Augustus (the Roman Emperor) 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.  – Luke 2: 1 to 3.

Luke’s words about the census have been proved accurate in every respect from the Roman documents of the time.

The angel’s final words to the shepherds told them who the Saviour is –

“He is Christ the Lord”.- Lucas 2: 11

The word ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ title, it is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ and it means ‘The Anointed One or ‘The Chosen One’ – And so we read in the book of Hebrews - The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being – Hebrews 1: 3

He told his disciples – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” – Matthew 28:18

And all this began when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a young and virtuous descendent of King David, and told her – “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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” – Luke 1: 35

With these words the angel declared what must be considered one of God’s greatest miracles of all time – the bonding of divinity with humanity for eternity!

There is, of course, one other part of the Nativity story that cannot be left out, and so we read in Matthew’s gospel – After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the time of King Herod Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have see his star in the east and have come to worship him - they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east  went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped hm. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh – Matthew 2: 9 to 11

Legend and tradition differ considerable from the Biblical account, for instance you can forget about the legendary figures of Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. The Bible does not give any names or the number of Magi (wise men), or that they were kings and represented the three main races of mankind. It merely states that, “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem” The idea that there were three was because they gave three types of gift; but this is in no way conclusive. No doubt they travelled with many servants and a military escort as we are told that all Jerusalem was disturbed.

By the time the Magi arrived in Bethlehem Jesus would have been between one and two years old and living with his parents in a house. We have to admire the faith of the Magi, They did not find him in a palace with royalty as his parents, but a peasant couple from Galilee living in a modest house, Nevertheless, there was no hesitation – they bowed down and worshipped him – and presented him with their gifts.

Gold – because that babe was destined to become – King of king and Lord of lords!

Incense – because he was destined to become the High Priest of his people.

Myrrh – Because he was destined to die to save his people from their sins.

Shepherds, wise men and angels all shared in the excitement of Jesus Christ’s birth. They knew that this was no ordinary baby.

The prophets had told of his coming centuries before and when he was born a very special star shone over Bethlehem marking the way for those who were seeking him.

I hope that you enjoy the decorations, the gifts, the special Christmas dinner, the mince pies and the cards from old friends this Christmas, for these are harmless traditions. But, above all, that you may thank God for the matchless gift of sending his Son as the Babe of Bethlehem, and seek him this Christmas as never before, that he may be birthed in your heart and change your life and destiny forever.

Have a blessed Christmas!
Pastor Gordon "Guillermo" Burgess

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