Advent: The Birth of Jesus Christ
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’…” (Matthew 1:18-23)
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1–7)
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Read: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-7
Joseph, the adopted father.
Matthew 1:18-25 is a fantastic summation of Christ’s birth from the perspective of Joseph. We’ve read plenty about Mary and her response to the Lord’s work through Luke’s writing, but Matthew focuses more on Joseph. After all, Mary and Joseph were already engaged to be married when the Holy Spirit placed Jesus in her womb. What did he think about this surprise baby that wasn’t his (Luke 1:27)? Since he was a “just” and honorable man, he planned to quietly divorce her according to Jewish law—preventing her from public shame. Divorce was provided for in the Old Testament law, but was the grievous result of deep marital unfaithfulness (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). As betrayed as Joseph must have felt, he didn’t want to drag Mary through the mud. But God, in His glorious sovereignty, sent an angel to visit Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. “…that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Imagine the emotions running through his mind and heart that night. He went from thinking his fiance had cheated on him to realizing that Yahweh had placed a miracle child in her womb. And, that baby would save people from their sins. We aren’t told of his immediate reaction, but he must have been humbled by the news. He obeyed the angel and “did as the Lord commanded him.” Joseph woke up the next day and obeyed God. He exhibited simple and immediate trust of His Word. Joseph, the carpenter from the backwoods town of Nazareth, was set apart to raise the Son of God as the stand-in human father. He would teach the one who spoke the universe into existence to swing a hammer and build furniture. He would teach the Light of the world to keep a fire warm. He would change the diapers of the eternal Son of God. There is much we can learn from Joseph’s humility, perseverance, and faith in God’s promises.
This interaction with Joseph came about to fulfill the promises of God in the Old Testament. God could have dropped a newborn baby on Mary’s doorstep with a letter that said He was the Messiah. Or, He could have let Joseph walk away and guided Mary to raise Jesus single-handedly. But that wasn’t the plan. And, God always keeps His promises. God’s people would be saved from their sins by Immanuel, a son born to a virgin in Bethlehem of Judea (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 2:11; Acts 3:26, 4:12, 5:31, 13:23, 13:38).
Bethlehem, the city of David
God is in control of all life and childbirth, and He is also over all kings and nations as well. Throughout the Old Testament, the Deliverer was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem (the city of David). Luke gives us a few more details about how they ended up there. His goal was to give Theophilus an orderly account that included facts that could be verified by witnesses. People were still alive who could testify to the accuracy of the events. Mary and Joseph were forced to travel from Nazareth (in Galilee) to Bethlehem (in Judea) because Joseph was from the family line of Judah. Sound familiar? Bethlehem was the city of David. Caesar Augustus just wanted more tax money, but Yahweh was coming down as the Messiah on this fateful journey. The empire of Rome was being used as a pawn by Almighty God to provide the time and place for Christ to enter the world! There was only a stable for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to lodge, but His coming would bless all nations.
“And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world his wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby Son.” The Jesus Storybook Bible (p. 18)
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). As simple as that, God the Son was born in a human body. We don’t get many details other than it happened among dirty animals, in a lowly barn or cave, and he was wrapped in swaddling cloths. Among the lowliest of circumstances and humblest of people, Jesus Christ came into the world as a pure and holy child.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
- How do you respond to the Lord when He calls you to obey in the face of fear or consequence? We can’t expect the same angelic dream that Joseph received, but we do have God’s Word and the Holy Spirit who spurs us on in godliness. Notice that God asked Joseph to do something that added nothing to himself. In fact, Joseph isn’t even mentioned outside of the first several years of Jesus’ life.
- Are you walking by faith or by sight? Do you respond to the Lord’s leading in humble and immediate obedience? Or, does your flesh win out as you wait timidly for the Lord to prove His trustworthiness all over again? Let’s make sure that we aren’t letting human logic and reasoning supersede the Lord’s supernatural power.
- Don’t forget that our Lord is sovereign over all things—life, death, nations, politics, family, and everything in between. He is always working towards His eternal plan to redeem a people to Himself. Never underestimate His involvement in everyday life.
- Mary and Joseph were the first to know that the Messiah was coming, but they still had to deal with everyday pains of living in a broken world. The Romans were still in control. They were still poor. They still had to travel to Bethlehem pregnant, without a minivan. They still got sick and labor was painful. They were still tempted by impatience, selfishness, and pride. They sometimes sinned. But, they lived with the hope of Yahweh right in front of them. In the same way, make sure that you are facing the trials and temptations of this world system by focusing your eyes and heart directly on Jesus.
Lord Jesus, thank you for keeping your promises. Thank you for coming in the humblest of circumstances and identifying with me in weakness and temptation. You are my only hope, but you are the only one worthy of my focus and worship. I praise you that you are able to lift my head and heart above the everyday life facing me. Whatever happens today, I know that you are in control and that you are making me more into your image. You are on a mission to rescue a people for yourself from every tribe and tongue, and nothing can stop you.
Family Discipleship Time
Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-7
- How did Joseph react to the dream from the Lord? (He listened and obeyed immediately the next morning.)
- Where were Mary and Joseph living when she became pregnant with Jesus? (Nazareth) Where did they have to travel to be counted in the census for Caesar Augustus? (Bethlehem, the city of David.)
- Is there any person or king who is more powerful than God? (No, God worked all of the details together in history so that Jesus would be born on this specific day, to this specific couple, in this specific town, and in the hay of this specific manger.
- Movie – “The Nativity Story” (Buy on Amazon)
- The Jesus Storybook Bible – “Get Ready!”
- Video – “John 1:14 // God Live Among Us” by John Piper
- Songs – A Way in a Manger, Silent Night
Free Advent Bible Study (2023)
Let’s stand back and marvel at God’s grace and sovereignty, and focus on God this Christmas. May we join with the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).
Join this 25-day Advent journey as we worship Christ and celebrate his coming.
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