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17 December, 2011

FORGOTTEN STORY TOO LITTLE REMEMBERED

The reason for the season...
One day about 2,000 years ago an angel named Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman named Mary. Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God! Mary was confused and worried about this sudden news, but she had faith in God and said, "I am the Lord's servant; let it be as you say."


Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the country now called Israel. It is about 65 miles (105 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the trip probably took them several days.


When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay because the inn was already full. They ended up spending the night in a stable, a place where animals were kept. There was probably fresh hay on the floor that they used for beds.


That night, Jesus was born. There was no crib, so they laid baby Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. The manger probably had fresh hay in it and made a nice soft bed for the baby.


Meanwhile, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep when an angel appeared to them and gave them the good news that a Savior, the Messiah, had been born. The angel told the shepherds they could find Jesus lying in a manger. Suddenly a whole group of angels appeared saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"


The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem and found Jesus in the manger, just as the angel had told them. After they had seen Jesus, they spread the news, and everyone who heard was in awe.


We all know the The Christmas Story but like all stories, the details have a way of fading and losing significance.  Stories as vital as this one, however, warrant revisiting more than just once a year-- lest we forget and lose perspective.  


Question
Was Jesus born on Christmas day? We celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas, but no one really knows what day Jesus was born, or even exactly what year. In 336 A.D., the Western Church, based in Rome, chose December 25 to celebrate as Christmas, meaning "Christ's Mass." The Eastern Church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance." Eventually the period from December 25 to January 6 became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Lessons
1) The stories of Jesus' birth link to both the past and the future. The circumstances of Jesus' birth show He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah, i.e. He was born in Bethlehem and He was called out of Egypt.

2) Jesus was born in a stable - the most humble of circumstances. Similarly, Jesus showed us how God's favor rests with the poor and downtrodden. Gentile* wise men also came to worship Jesus along with the shepherds. Later, the Gentiles* would make up most of the Christian world. King Herod's attempt to kill this "newborn king" and savior, foreshadows His crucifixion about 33 years later...and that is another story about how Jesus died for the sins of the world.  
(*) In New Testament times anyone who was not a Jew was considered a Greek, a Barbarian or a Gentile.

Through Jesus, all things can be forgiven.  "Just ask and ye shall receive."  That is THE message, if you want to accept it!

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