Most of us know how the shepherds were told by an angel “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:21 ESV). The sign given to them was “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 ESV). Since we are not familiar with many Jewish customs, this sign has not meant much to most of us. These shepherds who were in the vicinity of Bethlehem and Jerusalem would have been those who took care of sheep meant for temple sacrifice. When a lamb was born, it often thrashed around and sometimes got hurt in the process. But Leviticus 22:20 (ESV) says “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” So to keep the lamb safe and un-blemished, shepherds seemed to have had a habit of wrapping their lambs in swaddling cloth and put it in the manger away from the other sheep! New born Jewish babies seem to have been usually dressed in baby clothes and not normally wrapped in swaddling cloth! When these temple shepherds were given the sign of baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger by the angel, it was the perfect sign that the baby was the true Lamb of God that they had been eagerly waiting for!
Another interesting custom was that before a lamb was taken for sacrifice, it was cleaned and its legs were again swaddled so that it will not become dirty and it was carried over the shoulders to the temple for sacrifice. When Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, he didn’t walk in! Matthew 21:7-8 (ISV) says “they brought the donkey and the colt and put their coats on them, and he sat upon them. Many people in the crowd spread their own coats on the road, while others began cutting down branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.” Another proof that Jesus was indeed the true Lamb of God!
Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) says “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:28 (ISV) says “The Messiah was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” With this fresh understanding, spend some time this Christmas meditating on how God prepared Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be our perfect lamb to take away our sins. If you have not believed on his sacrifice to cleanse you from your sins, this is the perfect time to do it.
Wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy 2019.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2 (KJV)
Other than the Jews, no other society knew about the true living God. But after Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, the light started shining upon the people all over the world. It is believed that Thomas the apostle of Jesus came to India and was martyred here. Although different people continued bringing the gospel to India, the pace picked up after 1500 as trade between Europe and India picked up. Due to the external influence, it was generally considered as a foreign religion. But even after the foreigners left after independence, the light of Christianity continues to illuminate Indian’s hearts, transform lives and cause us to believe on the Lord Jesus. The darkness opposes the light and many are persecuted, even in this season when there are many who want to stop Christians celebrating Christmas. But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV).
Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” So let us not be fearful of the darkness that tries to overcome us. Even as the light of Jesus is shining across India and over the world, “let’s therefore put aside the actions of darkness and put on the armour of light” Romans 13:12b (ISV) and “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and do not obey your flesh and its desire”Romans 13:14 (ISV).
I wish all my readers a Christmas filled with the light of Christ. Just as the moon lights up the night by reflecting the light of the sun, may we be a light to the dark world by reflecting the light of Jesus.
I wish the readers of this blog a blessed Christmas. At the Christmas season, there is a lot of focus on Jesus as a baby and the incidents surrounding the birth. As God has put in us an instinct to love babies and children, it is very good to remember Jesus’ birth and show love to one another. But we should not stop at baby Jesus. Jesus grew up, studied the scripture, preached the gospel, did great miracles, drove out demons, was crucified, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God. Within 40 years of the birth of Jesus, Stephen no longer saw Jesus as a baby but saw Him at the right hand of God: “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:56 (ISV).
The Bible teaches us that we need to wait patiently for the rewards of faith. “Moses preferred being mistreated with God’s people to enjoying the pleasures of sin for a short time. He thought that being insulted for the sake of the Messiah was of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Heb 11:25, 26 (ISV). David said “I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3 (GW) “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 (GW).
If life is filled with seemingly insurmountable challenges, don’t lose heart! Keep praying and praising, waiting patiently for the Lord to act. Just as the baby was made the King of kings and Lord of lords we can overcome our challenges and the evil one. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (ISV).
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. These extraordinary words are often repeated at Christmas season especially in cards and sermons. The prophet Isaiah and the numerous people who were waiting for this promised child would have expected Him to have a peaceful childhood. But amazingly there was quite a lot of trouble surrounding the birth of this promised child.
Mary a God fearing virgin girl who is betrothed to Joseph a God fearing man, gets pregnant before marriage! She and Joseph must have had a difficult time as gossip spread. Around the time of the delivery, Caesar Augustus declares a registration and they were forced to travel (without modern comfort) to Bethlehem and there was no suitable place (and hospital) for the delivery. Seeing a special star, some wise men or magi make a trip to worship this baby. It appears that the star was not always visible during the journey and so they go to Jerusalem to get directions. Unfortunately Herod the Great who reigned in Jerusalem at that time was a ruthless and paranoid tyrant who even killed his father-in-law, some wives and two sons. Hearing their mission, Herod decides to secretly kill Jesus. When that plan was foiled, he kills all male children below 2 years in that area. To avoid it, the newly wedded couple had to escape to Egypt with an infant!