The time had come.
It was, as we reckon time, 6 BCE. Israel had seen better days; its independence had been lost 57 years previously, and the Israelites labored under a “half-breed” king, Herod the Idumean. The people knew the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, and others, and they felt that the time of their deliverance surely must be near.
God’s relative silence over the previous 400 years was ending; His angel appeared to an aged priest whose barren wife, like Hannah of old, would bear a son (cf. 1 Samuel 1). This would be no ordinary son, but a prophet– the prophet who would prepare the way of the Messiah.
The same angel then appeared to a young engaged girl in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, named Miriam, or Mary. She was told that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, that she would conceive a Child, and that the child would be the promised Deliverer of Israel. She was willing to bear the shame and reproach of pregnancy outside of wedlock so that God’s plan could be finally achieved. The man to whom she was betrothed, Joseph, was a good man. He did not want to have her stoned, but planned to divorce her quietly. The angel also appeared to him, indicating that the Child was of God, and that the Child would deliver many from their sins.
In 5 BCE, when Joseph and Mary were away in Bethlehem of Judah to enroll in the census, the Child was born in a manger. An angel proclaimed the birth to shepherds, and Magi from the east came to give homage. Prophets of God, on seeing the Child, understood how God’s plan was being fulfilled. Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth would become the greatest figure in the history of mankind. As it is written,
Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying,
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, And they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23).
In late December of every year, many stop and reflect upon the birth of Jesus in the accounts described above from Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. The New Testament does not provide us specifically with the year, month, or even day of His birth; two of the Gospels do not provide any information about Jesus’ origins.
Jesus was born, and that is good news! The birth of Jesus occurred according to the prophecy, and Jesus represents the Immanuel child, God with us. His birth is remarkable because of His life and message, the Gospel: repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:23, Luke 4:43). He died for the sins of mankind on the cross yet was raised again on the third day (Matthew 26-28). Jesus’ birth would have meant little had it not been for His life, death, and resurrection– God was with us to redeem us and show us the way of life.
People enjoy focusing on the birth of Jesus in the manger, the innocent baby that represented such promise. Nevertheless, it was Jesus’ rebirth– His resurrection– that provides us the opportunity to live in Him, as it is written:
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
Many will gather during this time of year and spend time enjoying friends and families, exchanging gifts, and perhaps think somewhat regarding the birth of Jesus. While we must recognize that Jesus was not born on Christmas Day, we can be thankful to God that He sent His Son in the flesh to represent Immanuel–God with us–and that we can be saved in Him. Even in the midst of the cold, dead winter, new spiritual life can begin in Jesus. Consider the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and be added to His Kingdom today!