The arrival of most babies is the culmination of nine months of preparation, planning and anxiety. When the time arrives for the baby to be born, it will happen—ready or not. Our first child was born 2 weeks late, according to our reckoning. Pat and I were most anxious, having never trodden this path before. So, she quizzed our OB doctor pointedly about the delay in Daren’s birth. Doctor Grizzel was a seasoned veteran of thousands of pregnancies and deliveries, and his answer to her was simple. He said, “Ripe fruit falls from the tree.” Of course, he was exactly right, and it wasn’t long before we carried a baby home from the hospital.
When Jesus was born, it was the culmination of God’s plan from before the creation of the universe. Peter wrote that Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). His appearance in human form came that significant night in Bethlehem—the first Christmas.
The arrival of the King of kings and Lord of lords was surrounded by several unusual events. All these came together in one glorious night like no other.
1. His Arrival was Directed by Unusual Circumstances
The prophecy of Micah (5:2) stated the Messiah’s birthplace was to be Bethlehem in Judah, but Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth in Galilee. If Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, something had to happen to cause Mary and Joseph to be there at just the right time. That “something” that allowed Jesus to be born in Bethlehem was a world-wide decree from Caesar Augustus, “that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth….And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city” (Luke 2:1, 3). Joseph had to return “to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary” (verses 4 & 5).
That Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem was well known because some of the Lord’s critics pointed out: “Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:42). The 90-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem must have been torture for Mary, who was “great with child” (Luke 2:5).
2. His Arrival was Surrounded by Extreme Poverty
When God the Son became the Son of God by human birth, it fulfilled several Old Testament predictions. Isaiah had prophesied that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Matthew records this verse and adds, “Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:21). When Jesus was born, God came literally in human form. Isaiah also prophesied: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa. 9:6). The Messiah would be a child born and a son given, who would later rule the world.
However glorious the future would be, the birth of Jesus was surrounded by extreme poverty. Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger.” The King who should have been clothed in linen was wrapped in pieces of cloth. The One who sat on a throne was laid in a cattle trough. The very One who made man, was neglected by man, “for there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Jesus was surrounded by poverty, so He could later share His riches: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
3. His Arrival was Accompanied by Unparalleled Glory
Unusual circumstances and extreme poverty could not dampen the unparalleled glory of heaven at the Savior’s birth. The arrival of the Lord of Glory, the Messiah of God, the King of all, was accompanied by the unimaginable glory of an angelic host. As the angel of the Lord stood before the shepherds, “the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened”(Luke 2:9).
Then, “suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’” (verses 13-14). Their visit with the newborn Child, and the glory of the Lord with the multitude of heavenly angels caused the shepherds to go home “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen” (verse 20).
4. His Arrival was the Fulfillment of an Eternal Promise
The birth of Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to provide a Savior for fallen mankind. In the Garden of Eden God promised One would defeat the devil. God told Satan that a “seed” (descendant) from the woman “shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus won this victory on the cross when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He claimed this conquest the night before when He said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:31-32).
The attending angel declared “good news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). God’s promise of salvation came in the form of a baby lying in a manger that Christmas day.
Because of Christ’s coming, life, death and resurrection, salvation is proclaimed in His name for all people in all places. We can be redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” because “God chose Him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you” (1 Peter 1:20 NLT).