By Jim Kaseman
Luke 1:67-68 is poetry – the finest kind of poetry – a song or hymn sung by Zacharias on the day that his little son was given a name and he himself was once again able to speak. It’s a joyful Christmas song because Zacharias knows that the birth of his son is to be followed closely by the birth of God’s Son, and that the birth of God’s Son will bring to the world that which is needed most of all-a Saviour.
You know, there was a time when slavery was a common thing in our country. A slave did not have the freedom to do as he pleased but day and night was under the control of his master and was often abused. But slaves were sometimes redeemed, that is, set free by someone paying the price that the master put on the slave. Now Zacharias’ happy Christmas song praises God because He is going to send to the world as a Redeemer, One who will set the world free from it’s slavery to sin.
Zacharias says that God has “visited and redeemed His people.” What does this mean? Why simply this, that when Christ would come He would set the world free from it’s slavery by paying the price of such freedom. it was through Jesus, the promised Messiah, that God visited and redeemed His people, for Jesus paid the ransom price, in fact, He
was Himself the price necessary to set the world free from the bondage of sin. “I believe that Jesus Christ … has redeemed me … NOT with silver and gold, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death as He took my place.”
No wonder Zacharias was very, very happy! God had made plain to him that his own son, John, was to prepare the way for the coming Saviour by calling on people to be sorry for their sins and to look to Jesus as the Saviour from sin and death.
The Virgin Birth
Up in the hill country of Galilee, tucked away like an eagle’s nest, in the side of a rocky slope, lies the little town of Nazareth. Off the main highway, this little town had never come into particular prominence until one day the angel, Gabriel, made a visit to a young woman who lived in that town. Her name was Mary, and at the time the angel visited her she was betrothed to, that is, engaged to marry, Joseph, a descendent of David. The angel had a wonderful message for this modest maiden, for he told her that God had elected her, of all women on earth, to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Highest and Saviour of the world. (Luke 1:26-33)
To Adam and Eve, after they had fallen into sin, God had promised that the seed of the woman should crush the head of the serpent, that is, that some day a child should be born of a woman who would prove to be the conqueror of Satan and the Saviour of men. This glorious promise, Gabriel tells Mary, is now going to be fulfilled and Mary is the woman through whom it shall be fulfilled. (Genesis 3:14-16; Isaiah 7:14)
Of course this announcement startled Mary. She could not help wondering how this could be, since she had no husband. But the angel explained that through a miracle of God’s power she would become a mother, and that since God was to be the Father of her baby, the holy thing which should be born of her would be called the Son of God. And then to strengthen Mary’s faith that all this was really going to happen, Gabriel told her that her cousin Elizabeth, although an aged woman, was going to have a baby before long. The angel referred, of course, to John the Baptist. (Luke 1:34-37)
Mary, who was a very godly woman and who knew how God had performed wonderful miracles for her people in the days of Abraham, Moses and Daniel, took the angel at his word and said she was quite ready to serve the Lord in any way He wanted her to. Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)
The Place Of His Birth Foretold
Though we do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, we do know the exact place where He was born. One might think that the King of heaven, God’s own Son, would be born in a big city-in Jerusalem, the capitol of the Jews, or even in Rome, the largest city of that day. You know that when the wise men came from the East to find Jesus they
went first to Jerusalem, thinking that the newborn king would be there. Of course they did not find Him in Jerusalem because, as we all know, He was born in the little town of Bethlehem, about six miles south of Jerusalem.
In a wonderful way God had told His people where Jesus was to be born hundreds of years before the day of His birth. Micah, one of the Old Testament prophets, had been inspired of God to write: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler on Israel.” (Micah 5:2)
A Humble Beginning
God often uses the weak things, the small things, the things that we may think are not worth using. How many such weak and small and lowly things were used in connection with the birth of Jesus, the great King of heaven and earth! He was born of a poor unknown virgin from the despised town of Nazareth. His little body was wrapped in swaddling clothes or bands, not by a trained nurse or other attendant, but by His own mother. And then He was laid in the manger, so that the box from where the cattle fed, became the first cradle of the little Lord Jesus, and the hay which the cattle ate became His first bed clothes.
So, Jesus came to earth, not as a proud King, but as a humble servant. He came to be the Brother of Men, and not only their brother, but their Saviour, the One who would take upon Himself our sins and weaknesses and bear that awful load from the cradle to the grave. And so when He was born He took not the form of a mighty ruler and master, but that of a lowly servant. And throughout His years on the earth He went about among men as a lowly servant, showing us that true greatness lies not in having others serve us but in our serving others!
Does the fact that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger dim His greatness or keep us from worshipping Him as our Lord and our God? Oh, by no means! The divine love that caused Him so to be humble Himself draws us all the more closely to Him. (Luke 2:67)
The First Christmas Service
In beautiful, familiar words, Luke 2:8-14 describes the first Christmas service. It took place not inside a church building but out in the open fields of Bethlehem. And the congregation were not dressed in their Sunday clothes, but in the rough, warm clothing of shepherds. But the hearts of the shepherds were clean and pure, and they loved God
and their fellow men, and that is what God looks at more than the clothes that a worshipper wears.
I need to tell you that it was a wonderful Christmas service in which the shepherds took part. To begin with, the preacher was an angel, perhaps the same angel, Gabriel, who had told Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus. And the angel’s sermon was a most comforting piece of good news: “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” That was the best news in the world, for it told of the best gift that men have ever received: The gift of God’s only begotten Son to save us from our sins.
And the music at that first Christmas service! just think of it; a whole multitude of shining angels, with the glory light of heaven on their faces, appeared in the heavens and sang the familiar Christmas song:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
That Christmas hymn has been used in the public worship of the church for hundreds and hundreds of years.
For Us Today
But the most wonderful thing about that first Christmas service is this, that it was not just for the shepherds but for everyone, for you and for me, and for all people everywhere. Jesus came to bring peace to all of us, the peace that fills the hearts of those who believe in Him as their heavenly Saviour and who know that God, for Jesus’ sake, forgives us our sins through the blood of Jesus and makes us His own dear children. You see, sin is a barrier, a kind of high wall, between man and God. Sin separates men from God and we cannot have peace so long as we are separated from God. But through Jesus that wall is torn down and peace is made between God and man.
Thank God for the Christmas season which reminds us of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Kathi and I pray that the peace of God, which passes all understanding may fill your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord continually during the days remaining before His return! Amen!
This article is from: Jim Kaseman Ministries, December, 1994, Vol. 20, No. 12. This material has been copyrighted and may be used for research and study purposes only.
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