31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 16 – John the Baptist is born

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“For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

John the Baptist had a remarkable life. He came to make way for the Messiah and to prepare people’s hearts for salvation, though he did not know ahead of time who the Messiah was to be.  He lived a simple and humble life in the wilderness, but was feared by King Herod because of his influence, and was later beheaded by Herod.  The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, who wrote Antiquities of the Jews (a history of the Jewish people) acknowledged the life and activity of John the Baptist.

And so Luke continues his story of the birth of John – later to be known as John the Baptist.

Luke 1:67-80
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
just as He spoke by the mouth
of His holy prophets in ancient times;
salvation from our enemies
and from the clutches of those who hate us.
He has dealt mercifully with our fathers
and remembered His holy covenant—
the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.
And child, you will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare His ways,
to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the Dawn from on high will visit us
to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

I pray that you will get to know who Jesus is – the way of peace, the light that shines in the darkness, and the one who gives us salvation and forgiveness of our sins.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 28 – Wise Men arrive

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The Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem.  Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived about two years in Bethlehem and were out of the stable and living in a house by the time the Wise Men arrived.  But who were these Wise Men?  They were definitely from the East, probably Persia (modern-day Iran), and would have traveled about 800-900 miles by the stars to get to Bethlehem.  They must have been familiar with Daniel’s prophecy about the timing of the Messiah, since Daniel had been chief of the court seers at an earlier time in Persia during the Jewish exile.

They were learned men and confident of their knowledge too.  They would not have traveled such a far distance on just a hunch.  When they arrived in Jerusalem, they asked King Herod where the King of the Jews had been born.  They already knew he had been born.  And they already knew who He was.

They must have been important men to have the attention of King Herod, but Herod had not been expecting them – they came unannounced.  That seems a little unusual, but perhaps the Wise Men knew of King Herod’s reputation as a ruthless King and thought it better to not cause trouble ahead of time.  King Herod was also an Edomite, who came from the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother from their father Isaac.  Esau had given up his birthright and blessing to Jacob, who later became the nation of Israel.  Throughout the history of the Old Testament, the Edomites have always been at conflict with Israel, and now it continues with King Herod.

The Wise Men were not Kings themselves but Magi (magicians) or Astronomers.  But they believed.  They had studied the history of the Jews and their prophecies.  Perhaps it is symbolic that Jesus was already having victory over darkness through these Magi. And King Herod and the rest of Jerusalem was not happy about it.

Matthew chapter 2 tells us the story of the Wise Men’s visit:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”

Of course Herod did not want to worship the child but to kill him.  And how sad it is that all the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem – those who knew the law and knew about the prophecy of Bethlehem – did not even want to go to see it for themselves.  Had their hearts become that hardened and selfish that they did not want to see the truth?

I pray that you will open your heart to the wonderful possibilities that can come from Jesus.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 30 – Three prophecies complete the birth story of the Messiah

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The Wise Men finished worshiping the child Jesus and departed for home, being warned in a dream not to return by way of King Herod.  Joseph was also told by an angel of the Lord to take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt by night, because Herod wanted to destroy the child Jesus.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Hosea), saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” – Matthew 2:15

When Herod found out that he had been deceived by the Wise Men, he was very angry and put to death all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two, trying to kill the one who was Jesus.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.” Matthew 2:17-18

When Herod was dead, the angel appeared again to Joseph and told him to take the Child and his mother to the land of Israel.  And also being warned by God not to return to Judea where Herod’s son was reigning, Joseph and his family went to the region of Galilee, to the city of Nazareth.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23

Nazareth was considered a lowly area with not much of a reputation. While there are no written prophecies about Jesus becoming a Nazarene, it was most likely meant as a description for someone who would be despised.  The prophecies in Psalms and Isaiah describe this:

Psalm 22:6-8
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Isaiah 53:3
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

I pray that your new year will be filled with the hope of Jesus!  No matter what your situation, Jesus understands.  He has been there, as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He can help you overcome!

* Happy New Year *