1st Century A.D. | Christmas Story
The Christmas Story
The disciple, Matthew, writing (after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, 70 A.D.) for the remnant of the Jewish sect of Jesus followers and for future Jews expected to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Luke, a later gentile convert, (writing towards the end of the first century to the churches of “Christians” of Paul’s work, predominantly gentile in population) is writing from collected oral accounts of witnesses from the original Jerusalem congregation.
Matthew 1:1-16, gives the lineage of Jesus from Abraham through David to confirm to Jews in the Jesus following and to record for future Jews the authenticity of the lineage of Jesus, of the house of David. This lineage is the genetic line of Mary being that Joseph had no part in the conception.
As David’s preeminence as King of Israel is paramount, equally so is Joseph and Mary’s obscurity of absolute necessity.
Luke, chapter one: The emphasis on this portion of the story (into chapter two) is to importantly record the family ties between John Baptist and Jesus and to show the prophetic fulfillment in both of their ministries. The root and primary importance of the Law is shown in a line of family generations that trace back to the Eden image of God.
In Matthew chapter one, tells of the espousal of Mary to Joseph before they “came together”; importantly that she be found a virgin to receive the impregnation (The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall over shadow thee, Luke 1:35); thus fulfilling Isaiah 7:14.
Joseph, in a dream he is shown by the angel that his espoused is indeed with child of the Holy Ghost and that he should take her unto himself (marriage) and he did as the angel directed: knew her not until after the child was born (Matthew 1: 24-25); Leviticus 15:16-18.
Luke, chapter two tells of the taxation decree that directed Joseph to Bethlehem, the nativity of David, to register and pay. He brings his wife, who is great with child, not chancing to be apart from her and the birthing.
Bethlehem is congested with the numerous families of registrants to pay their taxes, thus the inns are all full. They find cover from the elements in a stable during their sojourn at Bethlehem. Joseph will first take care of the business at hand, registering as man and wife (child yet unborn) and pay the tribute. And following: “While they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (they await the impending birth in humble confines not wanting any risk on the 50 miles journey home). Joseph registering the couple before the birth precludes importantly conceals the subsequent record of their child being born at Bethlehem during Herod’s reign.
Accordingly, the angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appeared to a select company, the nearby shepherds, and announce to them of the birth of a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord, in Bethlehem (the city of David). Accompanied by a heavenly host in chorus, the shepherds were told where to find the holy babe: wrapped in swaddlings, lying in a manger. The divine plan was to protect this event in secrecy. Only the shepherds are called and will then return to their respective night watches.
In Matthew, chapter two: A number of Jews, descendants from the captivity (in the Persian diaspora) who have studied the expectation of a messiah is now due on time, according to scriptures. Among these are they that have been shown His Star, signifying that he is born.
After months and careful preparations, they set out for the long trek to Jerusalem to pay obeisance and to this Holy infant king and to present precious and valuable gifts.
The beginning of their travel followed the trade route of the “fertile crescent”, was well into the first year of Jesus’ life. They were not just three individuals, but a company in both supply and protective support over their hidden treasures.
Reaching Jerusalem carried them early into the second year of Jesus’ life.
They, upon entering Jerusalem (a caravan with servants and armed guardians), ask, Where is he that is (already) born king of the Jews ? They were expecting he had already been acknowledged and received as king.
The city is more than aroused with this assemblage and Herod is alarmed with the news.
Back to LUKE we see the undocumented and unnoticed birth in a manger so to be apart from the traffic and notice of the world round about.
After 8 days the child is circumcised (Luke 2:21) and after 40 days of the mother’s purification
(Leviticus 12:1-4) the child is taken by his parents to Jerusalem to “present him to the Lord”. There he is twice recognized (Simeon and Anna), yet remains unnoticed to the powers that be.
The family returns to their home (a house) in Nazareth, where they abide and will go up to keep the Passover feast in Jesus’ first year.
In MATTHEW the sojourner’s arrival from the east has caused a stir to the notice of Herod (who was well schooled in Judaism and builder of the reconstruction of the Temple and Temple mount), who gives them special audience along with his assembled chief priests. Herod demands to know where Messiah, according to scriptures, is to be born, and he sends the company in search of, with instructions that they return to him that he might also go to pay homage.
“and. Lo, The Star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the Young Child was.” Mattew 2:9. : in Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph returned and had been living quietly, indigenous to the surrounds.
Verse 10: “When they saw the Star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Critically, its PRESENCE again visited them in a new perspective. Leading them out of Jerusalem, not south to Bethlehem…but north about 50 miles to Nazareth. Verse 10 stands alone because of its very significance.
Verse 11: When they were come into “the house” they saw the “young child” (already into his second year), with Mary his mother. Notice, Joseph is not present; their arrival was a complete surprise.
Being warned of Herod’s deceit, the company departs “another way”, as it was, another way, that they took: not to Bethlehem, but to Nazareth (which also helped insure their safe exit homeward in view of Herod’s sweeping wrath to follow).
Within the week, Herod realizes that he has been mocked and sends his soldiers to Bethlehem to slay all males under two years of age “according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men” Matthew 2:16. The “wise men” having told Herod of their special lengthy and preparations to insure their safety for the long journey after seeing the sign of his birth (Star) from their native lands in the east. They knew that he was born and that he was already over a year old.
The Angel also comes to warn Joseph of the search and destroy mission of Herod focused on not only Bethlehem, but also in “all the coasts thereof”. They flee according to the angelic directions on the coastal roads to Egypt, far removed from Herod’s target of Bethlehem and vicinities.
Jesus turns two and goes into his third year while in Egypt. The gold and precious gifts given by the sojourners provide the means of sustenance to the family, who would leave all behind in their hastened flight and long trek down into Egypt.
Herod dies shortly after their year in Egypt (sometime between 3 and 4 AD).
The angel again comes to Joseph and tells that Herod is dead and to return into the land of Israel.
Finding Herod’s son reigning in his place, Joseph again follows the Divine midnight directions and avoids the territories under the immediate eye of Archelaus, but goes into the Galilee and his former home at Nazareth.
They, as a family will continue to live with the secret and to go transparently to the yearly Passover feast at Jerusalem.
The first notice we have of Jesus again is at age 12 with his audience of lawyers and doctors in the Temple during the final days of the Passover feast. The extended family, outside of his parents, are still unaware of the particulars of his birth, and Joseph’s yearly tax and registry at Bethlehem would list the family as native and resident at Nazareth. The initial registry listing only Mary and Joseph, as the child was yet unborn.
It is so wonderfully noticed how carefully God arranged the events of this story to conceal and protect. How this story is told through two voices, each carefully and exactly detailing a particularly different and important portion of it. When placed side by side, the two narratives intertwine and blend together as one continuous thread that foreshadows prophetically how God, once again, will conceal and protect the long expected Second Visit.
Again, there will be a Star of Bethlehem, revealing to a select few in company, who are in search having an awareness of the impending.
Now a Second time, a humble and indigent party of common laborers are called and chosen to witness.
And as once before, the lofty professors of religious institution will not be among the called to the birth; nor leave their comfortable positions to follow into such humble surrounds; all of which contradicts and defies their polished and learned expectations.
Mary’s City of David; 21 December 2006; 28 October, 2016. R. James Taylor