By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
Our living room has a book box that holds picture books for our youngest daughter. I do my best to rotate them out each season as we usher in different holidays. As of now, that wicker box is filled with picture books on Santa, the Bernstein Bears, and Five Little Snowmen. But, my favorite books take a deeper look into the reason for the season, proclaiming the birth of Jesus. There is a touching story about a crippled lamb that made his way to the manger and a beautiful picture book that shares the story of Christmas with vivid pictures that make it truly come alive.
These books have been well-loved, and some have even been passed down from previous generations. So, when I glance over at that book box, I am grateful. Grateful that God's story is told to our precious children and continues to live on!
Maybe you have some picture books that retell the story of Jesus, or you share that story in your own words when you tuck them into bed at night. Maybe you are fortunate enough to hear stories of the past from grandparents, their take on the Christmas story, and how they celebrated this time of year.
Many stories have been passed down and shared about our Lord's humble and miraculous birth. For quite some time, this unconventional story has been shared and retold by many, including pastors, theologians, and authors. However, while we can certainly indulge in these stories, joyfully listening and reading them to our children, nothing quite compares to hearing and seeing those words come to life when we open up the precious Bible.
Just opening up His Word does something for our hearts, minds, and souls. If you really want to dig into some Scriptures and capture the essence of Christmas, then go ahead and grab your Bible and maybe some cocoa and chocolate-covered pretzels (because this is going to be good). Then, get settled in and savor this time of year by getting wrapped up in His presence and in tune with the real spirit of Christmas.
The Messiah Is Coming: Psalm 2, 22, 98, 110
The lengthy book of Psalms, composed of songs, poems, and praise, is meant to express worship to our God, but it may not be the first book you think of when it comes to Jesus' birth. Yet, there are subtle references weaved throughout, declaring anticipation of the coming Messiah.
Psalm 2 is credited to David and depicts a harsh world as nations rage war against our God and the consequences that derive from rulers' sinful actions. David issues a warning to make wiser choices and submit to God by serving Him. In conclusion, Psalm 2:12 says to "kiss the Son" in reference to Jesus, stating that those who place their trust in Him will be blessed and find a place of refuge.
Psalm 22 is a depiction of the mixture of emotions that accompany suffering and grief. While this Psalm is to bring comfort that God is always with us, it also foreshadows Jesus's ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. He was known to have recited this very verse as He was pierced for our transgressions.
Psalm 98 boldly gives a glimpse into the New Testament and the life of Jesus Christ, noting His salvation, deliverance, and victory. The beloved Christmas carol, Joy to the World, actually originated from this Psalm as we joyfully worship the Lord and all He has done!
Psalm 110 is a song from David about the Messiah. This beloved Psalm is most often quoted in the New Testament because it refers to Jesus as Lord (Psalm 110:1-3) and the eternal High Priest (Psalm 1110:4). This gives reference to Jesus being both divine and a human King of Israel, descending from David. The position of Jesus being the Father's right hand also has symbolism, referring to His position of influence and strength.
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The Genealogy of Jesus: Matthew 1
Matthew, the tax collector who turned disciple, was the first account given in the New Testament to share the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew's beginning starts with a rather lengthy list of names, from Abraham all the way to Jesus, basically covering fourteen generations of family history. However, seeing how Jesus is connected to the Old Testament is important. Being in the messianic line of David and a son of Abraham, Jesus' birth brings forth a blessing to all nations, fulfilling prophecy.
In Matthew 1:18-25 we see that birth story unfold when an angel appeared before Joesph in a dream. We learn how Mary and Joseph came together and became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was told to care for and protect Mary, and when the child was born, they would name Him Immanuel, which means "God with us." This gives us a little glimpse into Joseph's noble character and his side of the story, which must have been filled with fear initially, then utter trust in the Lord.
Photo credit: ©SWN
The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2
This infamous and beloved passage is the one we often read at Christmastime. We gather our people and rediscover Luke 2 every year as if it is an item to be marked off our holiday "to-do" list. But is there more to this passage than meets the eye? I would venture to say yes!
Let's unpack a few details about Luke. First, did you know that Matthew and Luke are the only two gospels that recount the birth of Jesus? While other accounts of Jesus' life were mentioned in the other gospels, the birth was not one of them. The other interesting fact is that Luke never knew Jesus personally. That means he wasn't there to buddy up to Jesus like the other disciples or witness all of His miracles. However, being a devoted follower of Christ and preaching the good news alongside Paul allowed him to hear many stories that he shared with many.
While the timeline may be a bit tricky, Luke was able to touch base and hear from eyewitnesses who helped him form his story of Jesus. And, even though there is still much debate on several topics surrounding Luke 2, such as the December 25 date and the significance of each character in the birth story, the message for us is clear – God's plan is perfect and always so much great than we could ever imagine!
For Unto Us a Child Is Born: Isaiah 9:6-7
Isaiah was a prophet who lived in a very trying time in history. The northern kingdom of Jerusalem was on the brink of collapse, yet this is exactly when Isaiah began his ministry (Isaiah 6:1-13). His mission was to get the Judeans to trust in God and repent from their sins.
Looking back in Isaiah 8 describes the people at that time in Judea and how calamity and darkness had befallen them due to a brutal attack by the Assyrians. This was pretty much a wake-up call for God's people. Yet, Isaiah swoops in to deliver a message of hope.
This is where we read about the coming Messiah! The people were searching for a ray of hope, anything to break free from the oppression and conflict of their archrival and enemy. They desperately needed God to bring them deliverance.
Isaiah 9:6 proclaims that a child will be born, and the government will rest upon His shoulders. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! Furthermore, His kingdom will have no end (Isaiah 9:7). Those words gave them the hope they needed to trust God!
The Word Became Flesh: John 1:1-18
John gives us a beautiful introduction to the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. It starts with, "In the beginning…" Sounds familiar, right? Just as Genesis began with those words, we see the New Testament declare the same exact words. The correlation here is truly awe-inspiring.
Just as God spoke and brought physical light into existence at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:1-4), He does the same here as He affirms that Light is the form of the Word. The Word was with God! And the Word was God! Two very bold statements at the beginning.
The Word became flesh (John 1:14). These are the most powerful and pivotal verses in the Bible. The gospel of John passionately states that Jesus is the Light of the World. He is One with the Father, born of flesh and bone, made to dwell among men, and in essence is the Word of God.
Photo credit: ©Piotr Wójcik
Jesus Is Lord: Romans 10:9-13
The Book of Romans is a concise group of letters delivered by Paul, intending to help the Roman church gain unity (as there was much conflict within the church at the time) and understand the good news about Christ. Essentially, the emphasis here is placed upon the pillars of faith and the bedrock of truth about our Messiah.
Romans 10 turns its focus to Israel and sheds light on how they valued merit and based their performance on how well they held to the commandments. They had essentially failed to recognize the selfless sacrifice that was made for them upon the cross.
This is where the declaration and confession of Jesus' being Lord became invaluable! Seeking righteousness by following God's laws and commandments is not our only act of faith. Paul reminds the church that it comes by realizing Christ's selfless sacrifice for all of us. It is realizing that Jesus' love is so great that He gave His life so we can truly live and have a life beyond this one. When we profess that our Jesus is Lord, it penetrates to the depths of our hearts. So we should declare that truth and rejoice in His birth and what that means for us this season!
The story of Jesus. A story with a dark past, humble origins, and a hopeful future. A story that was born out of love. A story that continues to live on, where you, your children, and grandchildren get to be beloved characters. The most remarkable story ever told. The best story ever read. A story that continues to live on in each of us. What a very special gift!