I love studying history. To me, it’s always interesting to see how current events are remembered throughout time. What is highlighted? What lessons are learned looking back? What is nearly forgotten? When we read the story of Jesus’ birth – over 2000 years after the fact – it strikes me that the world’s most powerful ruler at the time is but a footnote in the story: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world” (Luke 2: 1). That’s it – one verse, for the most powerful emperor in the history of the Roman Empire.
Have you ever thought about that? This little, Jewish baby who was born in a cave in the little town of Bethlehem – seemingly nothing special to mark the event or place – yet it’s the very story of Jesus’ birth that is still retold, remembered, and celebrated around the world so many years later. That’s amazing!
A few years ago, my wife Anne and I were in Bethlehem when we noticed some sheep and a shepherd on the hillside. Our guide told us that it was custom that the firstborn, male lamb was swaddled in cloth and placed in a manger as it was examined for blemishes. Why, you ask? So that only those “without blemish” would be raised or set aside to be sacrificed in the temple.
Now, think about the parallel to Jesus’ birth: it was even foretold to the shepherds that they would find Mary’s firstborn son was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. This had to stun them, this baby – the sacrificial lamb? Yes, He would be sacrificing His life on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin. Jesus was set apart at birth, in the same way as a sacrificial lamb, in order to ultimately fulfill the calling God had placed on His life – the redemption of all of mankind!
Isn’t that pretty incredible? I love how no matter how familiar we may be with a passage of Scripture, there’s always more to discover. As you reflect on the story of Jesus’ birth this Christmas, ask God for a fresh appreciation and awe of the start of God’s atoning mission to redeem mankind through Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. And it all began with a special baby, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Merry Christmas from all of us here at RFTH!