Those who care occasionally complain that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost and to a greater extent this is certainly true. For the most part, instead of humility and worship it is time of indulgence and self-gratification. Gluttony, drunkenness and vice become 'turbo charged' and the season an excuse for revelling. Such conduct sadly reflects on the state of society and highlights the need for the gospel, a need that we all share no matter what way we live and that is what the coming of the Christ is all about. His birth begins the unfolding of the gospel story.
The place of the Messiah's birth was prophesied some 700 years before the event by the prophet Micah:
'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.' Micah 5:2.
When Herod called the Jewish leaders to ask where the Christ would be born, whom the wise men from the east had come to worship, they confirmed that it was Bethlehem according to the prophecy of Micah (Matthew 2:1-6), yet they showed no interest in its fulfilment and never went themselves to see the Christ child. They demonstrate the sad and strange mixture of knowledge and unbelief.
In terms of the cities and peoples of Judah, Bethlehem was of little significance, but in the estimation of God it was going to have an importance that transcended its size, population and status for from it would come the great Shepherd of Israel who was no less than the eternal Son of God. Bethlehem was of course King David's home town and the ultimate fulfilment of his promised seed, the Messiah - 'great David's greater Son,' would be born there. Thus, God saw to it that the Caesar Augustus would decree that a census be taken of the populace of the Roman empire at a time appropriate in order that Joseph and Mary would be in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus and thus it was there that Mary 'brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn' (Luke 2:7), and it was to Bethlehem the shepherds came after hearing the announcement of the angel of the Lord: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
He was Raised in Nazareth
After the dramatic events that overtook Joseph and Mary because of Herod's attempt to kill Jesus, they finally upon returning from Egypt settled in Nazareth. The Lord grew up in Nazareth where He was subject to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51) and lived among its people and a growing family practicing the noble trade of carpentry. 'He shall be called a Nazarene' was the fulfilment of what was 'spoken by the prophets' (Matthew 2:23) and throughout His life even unto the Cross Christ was known as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Nazarene. Not only did associating His name with where He grew up identify Him, it also carried, it would seem, a reproach or stigma. When Nathanael was told by Philip: "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”. Nathanael responded: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46). It would seem that Nazareth had a reputation of little worth in terms of its status and citizens. Indeed, it was the inhabitants of Nazareth who first tried to murder the Lord after He had returned to the synagogue there to read the scriptures and announce that He was the fulfillment of what He had read from the prophecy of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-30).
He Died at Jerusalem
At around 30 years old (Luke 3:23) Christ entered into what is often called His public ministry. He began in Galilee and then throughout the land of Israel He travelled with His disciples preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, teaching its precepts and healing the sick and demon possessed. Though in these years of ministry He visited Jerusalem many times, there was to be a final visit, the one that ended in His death. He knew both where He would die and when. As the time approached the Lord Jesus 'steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem' (Luke 9:51). He was going to Jerusalem to fulfil the will of His Father and as 'the Lamb of God' to bear 'away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). The birth of Christ was not an end in itself, no He was born to die, to be the sacrifice for our sins so that we could know God's forgiveness, escape His judgment and be assured of heaven.
The Lord Jesus died and rose again from the dead and through Him we can know peace with God: 'Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1). Remembering the child born and the son given is good, but it goes far beyond that; 'Have you as a helpless sinner trusted the Saviour of the world?'
The Bible says: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
On that most holy morn At Bethlehem, When Christ the Lord was born At Bethlehem, He came, O wondrous sight! Forth from the realm of light Into a scene of night, At Bethlehem. That quiet time He knew At Nazareth, Saw one with purpose true At Nazareth, Grow up in all His ways To God His Father's praise Precious indeed those days, At Nazareth.
Compassing plain and hill, In Galilee, Serving with subject will In Galilee, He whom the Father sent Journeyed with fixed intent In all the way He went, In Galilee.
Having the end in view Jerusalem, Onward He moved unto Jerusalem, Gethsemane to face To die in wondrous grace At the appointed place, Jerusalem.