(7) The Birth of Jesus
“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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” In the days of Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria, the first census was decreed (approximately 6-4 B.C.) – the census was used for military service and taxation by Rome – and God used this decree to fulfill the prophecy of Micah . Although Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and King of Israel, His birth was not perceived by the people He came to deliver – “there was no room for them in the inn.”. Luke also shows that the lineage of Joseph and Mary was traced back to David – “to Bethlehem the town of David,….. to register with Mary”
(8) The Angelic Song To The Shepherds
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “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 Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
“….the glory of the Lord shone around them”: the appearance of the angel terrified the shepherds for several reasons including the fact that an angel from heaven could mean that they were doomed to die, as often times in the OT God used angels to bring destructive plagues .The “glory of the Lord” appeared in Israel on many occasions – particularly in Tabernacle and in the Temple – here God’s glory was to authenticate the angel’s message “good news…for all people….a Savior has been born…he is Christ the Lord”. The angels did not give the location of His birth, only a “sign….wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”– a lowly birth for a king and The Son of God. At this the angel was joined by “a great company” of other angels singing and praising God, “on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” – the angels’ song was not a promise of universal peace on earth, it was peace to those on whom God’s approval rested and will rest in future generations. At this the shepherds left their flocks and went to Bethlehem, eventually finding Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus, no doubt after searching many stables in the city. After worshipping and telling their story, the shepherds returned to their flocks as changed men“glorifying and praising God for the all the things they had heard and seen” . Why did God appear to the angels and use them to spread the word of the birth of His Son? Maybe they were the only ones listening for the voice of God that night!
(9) The Circumcision And Naming Of Jesus
“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”
“…he was named Jesus” – given the name that the angel had given Him. (Iesous (ee-ay-sooce’); of Hebrew origin ; Jesus (i.e. Jehoshua), the name of our Lord and two (three) other Israelites: [Strong’s Definition])
(10) The Presentation Of Jesus In The Temple
“When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” . The Law had declared that “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” so Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Temple in Jerusalem to perform the requirements of the Law, an indication that from the very outset, Jesus the Son of God, and Himself God, held the Law in high esteem, even though He came to “set aside the Law” and introduce to the world His grace which is greaterthan the Law – “Grace greater than our sins”. “..the time of their purification” – Mary had to wait 40 days, according to the Law, before attending the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification . The firstborn males of both mankind and animals were to be consecrated to the Lord , the animals were sacrificed but the men were dedicated to the Lord’s service, the Levites taking the place of all the firstborn males in Israel . “Simeon…..was waiting for the consolation of Israel” – this was first spoken of by the prophet Isaiah – the comfort that Messiah would offer to His people was seen in Jesus by Simeon who was led by the Holy Spirit to wait for this occasion, and taking Jesus in his arms he praised God: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
“For my eyes have seen your salvation” – God’s promise had been fulfilled to Simeon, and indeed to all mankind, so now Simeon’s days could come peacefully to an end – “now dismiss your servant in peace.” .
“…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” – God’s salvation was offered to all people, not only to the Jews to whom Jesus came as their Messiah . Although Jesus would be the instrument of salvation to the world, God’s intent is that His followers should continue the work of evangelism.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” : “This child is destined to cause….”– Simeon then gives the first indication to the life of Jesus at His first advent – a life of suffering that would eventually cause a “sword”to pierce the very soul of Mary His mother.
(11) The Visit Of The Wise Men (Magi)
“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 saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
“….Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea”: Matthew’s account was to establish the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, King of Israel, thus he emphasizes the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the tribe of David and all the Davidic Kings; it is clear that the Jews expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem from the account in John 7:40-42.
“during the time of King Herod”: This is a reference to “Herod The Great” who ruled in Palestine from 37 B.C. – 4 A.D.; born an Idumean, he was ruthless and gained complete control by murdering members of his family.
“Magi from the east”: It should be noted that the scriptures, contrary to modern Christmas stories, do not indicate the number of members of their party; nor is there any indication as to where they originated; anywhere from Persia to southern Arabia could be considered east of Jerusalem.
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”. “We saw his star”– these men had identified a star as it appeared from the east in the heavens indicating to them that a king was born to the Jewish people, so they journeyed to the capital city Jerusalem in search of the newborn king. On hearing this, Herod again feels threatened by the news of a new king and calls for the chief priests and teachers of the Jewish Law demanding that they reveal where this new king would be born – in Bethlehem in Judea was their reply, because this is what the prophet Micah had said . After secretly instructing the Magi to report back to him, Herod sends them to Bethlehem in search of the child.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
“gifts of gold… incense and of myrrh”: no doubt the reason why the Christmas stories only speak of three Magi, but these gifts were symbolic to the Magi of the life of this new king, so they worshipped and gave their gifts. Having been warned in a dream, “they returned to their country by another route” . A final observation to be made from this account is the fact that the Magi were not kings and they did not visit on the night of Jesus’ birth in the stable, but some months after the family had returned to Bethlehem; Matthew also uses this narrative to show that the Messiah was recognized by other gentile people as the king of Israel.