How do you get prepared for Christmas? Do you find all the decorations? Put up the tree? Have any special traditions? How does a follower of Christ prepare for Christmas? Does it look any different from what the world does?
In Luke’s Gospel we can learn about Jesus’ birth and how people were getting ready for it. In fact, even the heavens were getting ready for Jesus’ birth.
Look at Luke 1-2:40 with me. Here’s a link to it: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A1-2%3A40&version=ESV
Zechariah and Elizabeth, relatives of Mary, Jesus’ soon to be mother, learn they are going to have a son, in their old, old age. Their son is going to be a powerful prophet, just like Elijah from the Old Testament named John and he will prepare the way of the Lord.
And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, or he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:12-17 ESV
What will be prepared in the passage? That’s right, a people prepared for the Lord.
Now let’s look at Luke 1:26-35, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
As we observe these passages we can learn about the way Jesus will arrive, what He will do and be. An angel Gabriel comes from God to Nazareth, to a virgin that’s engaged – there is scandal wrapped up in a miraculous yet humanly impossible virgin birth, but with God this will be possible, even holy. Mary will name her son Jesus and He will be great, called the Son of the Most High, of the throne of David, reigning over Jacob forever. There will be no end to His kingdom. Of what king have you read that’s kingdom has no end? The virgin birth will occur because of the Holy Spirit’s interaction with Mary, this us supernatural and out of this world. Jesus was to be called the Son of God.
Matthew’s gospel has more details we can glean about the preparation of our Lord’s birth. Look at Matthew 1:18-25, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
How beautiful! Look at Jesus’ name. Look at what was said of Him. He would “save His people from their sins.” His name, Immanuel, means God with us. God would be in the flesh, saving His people from their sins. And for all of us who know Jesus, and have a relationship with Him, we know Him as our Savior, the One who saved us from our sins, the One who is with us.
Let’s take a look at Mary’s preparation for the coming of Jesus. Note how she responds to the news And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be bornwill be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servantof the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:36-38
How does Mary respond to the news? Would you respond the same way? You want me to carry the Savior of the world in my womb? You want me to raise God’s Son? What if I mess up? What if I lose Him somewhere, or don’t feed Him the right vegetables, or get Him to the right synagogue every Saturday? What if His best friend is a bad kid? Will He know what I’m thinking?
Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”.
Notice the word servant. Jesus would be raised by a mother that considered herself to be a servant of the Lord. And Jesus would serve. She would be a part of His preparation to be the greatest servant the world has ever seen. Which brings me to an important part of Christmas. As we get our houses prepared for guests, and Christmas light displays and wrap a million gifts, are we also honoring Christ by serving anywhere? With the pandemic it’s really a challenge to find ways to serve. So how are you serving this Christmas? Have you found creative ways to be the hands and feet of Christ this Christmas?
Let’s look at some other parts of the Christmas story. As Mary and Joseph prepared for Jesus’ birth they were certainly in danger and in a vulnerable state. When Jesus’ mother rode through the Egyptian desert, so pregnant, she rode a donkey. Jesus’ beginnings of life on the earth were humble, vulnerable, and dangerous.
As we follow Christ, our lives may also be full of vulnerabilities, even danger. As an American, Caucasian woman I rarely if ever have faced danger for being a follower of Jesus. So that can be hard to relate to. However if you spend even a moment in a book by Voice of the Martyrs or read Operation World, or take a Perspective’s course you will learn of all the many dangers most Christians in the 10/40 Window face. Though we are not acquainted with danger, our Lord was, and we can support and serve those who still are because of the name of Christ.
Here are a few links to help you serve your brothers and sisters in Christ that are daily facing danger and vulnerabilities for loving Jesus:
I love the way the Wise Men prepared for the Messiah’s coming. They brought Him gifts. Check out Matthew 2:1-12. The gifts they brought would help secure the family’s finances and celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is a great reminder for us to use our gifts for His glory and the growth of the Kingdom.
Lately I have been reading a book by John Eldridge called Waking the Dead. Eldridge discusses the implications of living in a world at war, spiritual war. The thought of this war continuing daily all throughout mankind’s history and future until Christ’s second coming was mind-blowing for me. There is never a break from it. Satan is always waring with God’s people, fighting for the souls of our friends, our family members. He is always battling with darkness. In Matthew 2:13-18, we read about Jesus being a hunted man, even from birth. Yet He was the Savior that came to us as a tiny innocent baby. He traded all the power of His throne to come and be with us, as one of us. He did not show up demanding this or that, riding the most powerful chariot, or driving a Lambo, He came as a humble Human. And some of those who knew He came were preparing to kill Him. In Matthew 2:13-18 we read of how Herod prepared death for Jesus. Danger has always been a part of the story.
When I was a little girl in the summer months I played in an outdoor drama, that depicted the life of Jesus from birth to crucifixion to resurrection. During the Palm Sunday scene, the little children, myself included, all ran across the set waving palm branches and yelling “Jesus is coming! Blessed is the day of the Lord! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!” The crowd almost always stood to its feet and joined in the excitement as Jesus, rode behind us on a donkey. A humble animal, a donkey, our King came to us riding on a donkey. In the play, the donkey’s name was “Stormy”. Stormy did not like to carry Jesus or do what Stormy was told on occasion. Whenever I helped care for the horses, I sometimes had to walk him up from the barn and he often would jet ahead ripping the rope out of your hands as you chased behind him. That donkey lived up to his name, and I would imagine most donkeys have a streak or ornery in them as well. Jesus came to His people riding on a donkey.
Since we looked at the way Jesus came into the world and even into His ministry, so humble and lowly on a donkey, not a chariot built of gold, whipping at many horses and demanding people bow before him, we should also look at the way He will return one day.
“Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna!”
One day Jesus will return to this earth and He will come on a brilliant white horse according to John, writer of the Revelation.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in[a] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16
This year the Bethlehem star has shone once again. This has not happened since 1623. It happened on December 21st. As the star that brought the wise men to find the baby Christ, people were preparing for the Messiah. How will you get prepared? Will you be like Mary? And let it be according to His will in your life? Be a servant? Go to great lengths, like Joseph, to protect Jesus? Making room for Him, allowing Him in your life? Will you be like the Wise Men and use your gifts for His kingdom?
There’s never a better time to share your extra coats with the shelter in your town, or take a bag of groceries to a shut-in, or pay for a sister’s car repairs. There’s never been a better time to support a ministry like Voice of the Martyrs. How will you prepare for Jesus this Christmas? There’s never been a better time to get your heart prepared for the Lord.
Jesus came as a humble human baby boy. He calls us to live a life like this. Humble always regarding others as higher than ourselves. Our knees bow to Him. We serve Him.
What about when we see Him again? I will leave you with this great passage from Philippians that can be a guide this Christmas as you get prepared for Christ.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:4-11