When we left off yesterday, Mary had just found out that she was pregnant. Our narrator, Alfred, had just stopped to listen to a group of carolers that were wandering by. Now, on to the exciting conclusion of our Christmas Story:
An Angel’s Christmas Story, Part 2
[Alfred stops to listen to a group of carolers, his thoughts drifting]
That’s really a nice song, isn’t it? I sure have heard a lot of good music down through the years… but that isn’t here nor there.While all this was going on – miracles, you know, and everything – Caesar Augustus decided that everyone should be taxed. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it meant that Mary and Joseph had to go quite a ways to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, since Joseph was a descendant of David, and Bethlehem was the City of David. There’s logic there somewhere. By this time Mary was very pregnant, you understand, so travel was not easy, and when they got to Bethlehem, the city was packed.
Packed cities never seem to bother me, you know, but of course I never have to worry about reservations. Poor Joseph and pregnant Mary went from house to house looking for a place to stay, but their wasn’t one room available in all of Bethlehem. Finally, one kind old innkeeper, noticing how Mary was about to give birth, offered his stables to them. Big deal. But what other choice did they have?
While they were staying in the stable, Mary gave birth to a son, just as Gabriel had told them, and they named him Jesus. You already know this, I know, but you have absolutely no idea as to how fantastically special this birth was. You might think that the conditions of Jesus’ birth were less than ideal, having a manger as a crib and all, but no hospital delivery room has ever been attended like this one was.
You always see those manger scenes with them in the stable, and nothing but animals meandering around, and two angels (not great-looking angels, either, I might add) flying in the air… I’m sure.
Let me tell you, there were more angels there than you could imagine. And we weren’t just sitting around, either. I don’t know whether you realize this, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better midwife or doctor. I’ve looked after quite a few humans in my time, and done a pretty fair job at it, if I do say so myself. Who do you think taught Luke everything he knew? So remember, Jesus’ birth may have been humble from the world’s point of view, but he had nothing but the best care.
Now in the fields outside of Bethlehem were a group of shepherds watching their flocks by night. (Forgive me for borrowing a phrase here and there, but it’s hard to improve on divine inspiration.)
These were godly men, well aware of the prophecies concerning the coming Savior. But this didn’t keep them from being afraid when one of our more dramatic angels suddenly appeared to them, to give them the good news that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem. No sooner had they been told this, than the sky was full of angels, all praising God.
You may not have ever thought of it, but we angels praise God because of who He is, when we see His goodness in His dealings with man. You folks have a much more personal involvement with God, and therefore much more reason to praise God every moment of every day. Remember that.
Whatever the shepherds were feeling, it must have made quite an impression on them, because it didn’t take them long to decide to leave their flocks and hurry to Bethlehem to see for themselves. And you know haw hard it is to get shepherds to leave their sheep! When they got to town, they easily found the little family, huddled in the stable, with Jesus happily lying in the manger, just as they had been told. When they saw that the miracle had truly taken place, they told everyone they met. I guess that makes them the first evangelists, doesn’t it?
Now for a lot of people, the Christmas story ends here, with the new parents and Jesus in the stable. But for Mary and Joseph, it was the beginning of a continuous miracle, as God and us angels were with them, keeping them safe.
In obedience to Jewish law, they took Jesus to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised in the temple. There, they heard a prophecy by a man named Simeon who, knowledgeable of the scriptures, had faithfully watched for the Messiah. Mary and Joseph were amazed. This was another in a series of events testifying to the Savior’s birth. I’m sure all of these things were hard to grasp. Remember, only a year ago, they were just ordinary Jewish kids.
Some time later, some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, having followed a star that signified to them that a great king had been born. They were all prepared to honor Jesus with great and precious gifts, and asked everyone they met where they could find the king. They were soon told by the Jewish priests that prophecies named Bethlehem as the place in which the King would be born.
Now Herod, the Roman king, heard that these men were in town looking for a new king, he was terribly upset. You may think you’ve seen some crooked politicians, but this Herod takes the cake. He tricked them into thinking he wished to pay tribute to Jesus, and told them to let him know where Jesus was when they found him.
The wise men found Jesus easy enough, and were overjoyed! They bowed down to worship him, and they gave him many precious gifts from the east. When they had paid their tribute to Jesus and were ready to travel home, God warned them in a dream about Herod’s trickery, and they went back home another way. Now God also knew that Herod was not about to give up his search for Jesus, and sent one of us to tell them to travel to Egypt where Jesus would be safe. They stayed there for about two years, until Herod had died, making it safe to go home. God sent another angel to speak to Joseph in a dream, telling him this. While they were on the way back, again an angel was sent to warn them that Bethlehem may still not be safe, and they went to Nazareth instead, where Jesus lived until he began his ministry.
So as you can see, we angels had quite an important part in the Christmas story. We had front-row seats, as it were, to the whole amazing drama. But whether or not you know it, we will never be able to truly appreciate the story the way that you can. Even though we were God’s messengers to Mary, Joseph, and the others, and could see all of what was going on, we really were outsiders.
Yep, the Christmas story is still one of my favorites. But to you folks, it should be more than just a story. The Christmas story is full of people who have one thing in common – a faith in God. That faith is the basis of a special relationship with God that we angels will never be able to experience or understand. And even though the birth of Jesus in itself is a great story of faith, how Jesus redeemed mankind through his death and resurrection is even a greater story, and the story is still being written today. Oh, yes – God’s as busy today as he ever was, whether you care to believe it or not.
You folks sure have been kind, taking time to listen. So many won’t take time for the important things. Come on back, when you have a mind to. I always have another story.