The first Christmas

Dr. Bill Helton - From a Pastor’s Heart

Mary and Joseph had loved one another with a pure and holy love and now they were betrothed. The tie of betrothal was in the eyes of the Jews as sacred as that of marriage. Then Mary was found with child. Every rose has its thorns; that bright, happy time is often, in ordinary experience, clouded with difficulties and anxieties. Never was there a greater trial for a betrothed pair than this which befell Joseph and Mary.

The Holy Ghost had come upon the blessed virgin and the power of the Highest had overshadowed her. She was highly favored indeed, blessed above all other women, chosen to be the mother of the Lord. Joseph was a just man and was sorely tried. He had tenderly loved his betrothed; he loved her still. He was in a position of the greatest perplexity. Mary was conscious of her own innocence; the angel had announced to her the cause of her immaculate conception. Joseph had, at the most, only her word to trust in; appearances were against her; her statement, if she told him all, required a very high degree of unquestioning, trustful faith. But he was a just man; he would not do her wrong. He could not wholly believe; perhaps he did not wholly disbelieve.

He intended to adopt a middle course; he would not expose his betrothed; he loved her still. His justice was not the strict, stern justice that considers only the letter of the Law; it was tempered with the gentler feelings, mercy and compassion. He could not bring one whom he had loved so dearly into the danger of shame and death. But under circumstances so suspicious he could not consummate the marriage. He was minded to put her away privately. It was misery to him to mistrust his betrothed; it was misery to be doubtful about the right path to be pursued in a case of such momentous importance to them both.

At last the answer came. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and reassured him that this was all part of God’s plan and he should take Mary as his wife. It calmed the fears of Joseph, it removed his doubts and enabled him to rejoice once more in the love of his betrothed. Mary was to be the mother of the Lord, the highest honor ever vouchsafed to a child of Adam. Joseph was to have the great joy of watching over Jesus’ infancy and youth.

Isaiah is often called the evangelical prophet; in his prophecy we have the foreshadowing of this gospel story. The prophecy was given through him; but he was not the author of it, it came from God. God had spoken it, and he would make it good. He had announced his will long ago, and at last the time was come. “Now all this is come to pass,” the angel said (for these words are part of the message), “that it might be fulfilled.” The Hebrew words mean literally, “The virgin is with child, and bears a Son. The terms of the prophecy can be satisfied only by a miraculous conception and a supernatural birth. The virgin-born Son is the King, the King who must reign till all his enemies are put under his feet. And he is Immanuel, “God with us”. He has taken upon him our human nature so that by the mysterious union of the human and Divine in the one Person of Christ our human nature might be cleansed from the dark stain of sin, and be created anew after the image of God. All of Joseph’s doubts were dispelled, his anguish was gone and he was filled with a strange and awful joy. His betrothed was to be the mother of the Messiah.

Joseph took unto him his wife; he respected her spotless purity and lived with her in reverential awe. At last the promised Child was born and he called His name Jesus, in obedience to the angel’s bidding. Jesus is the Greek form of the common Hebrew name Joshua, which means “God is salvation.” But only the Son of God fulfilled its blessed meaning, “He himself shall save his people,” which means by his own power. The first Joshua saved the Israelites by the help of God; the second Joshua is himself God, therefore he himself is able to save even to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. He came to “redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” He has a people, his own people, for he is a King, and his people are a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. They belong to him; they are his, bought with a price; they are not their own. When will we as a nation learn the true meaning of Christmas? If we desire peace on earth, then we must put Jesus in His rightful place as Lord and King. A father wanted to read a magazine but was interrupted by his little girl. She wanted to know what the United States looked like. Finally, he tore a sheet out of his new magazine on which was printed the map of the country. Tearing it into small pieces for each state, he gave it to his daughter, and said, “See if you can put this together. This will show you our whole country today.” After a few minutes, she handed him the map correctly fitted together with tape. The father was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly. “Oh,” she said, “on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got all of Jesus back where He belonged, then our country just came together.” May we as a nation come back together under the banner of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Christ there would be no Christmas. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Dr. Bill Helton is a professor at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville.

Dr. Bill Helton

From a Pastor’s Heart

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