I listened to a message by Charles Swindoll last week. In his message, he described a B-17 bomber crew during WWll. The B-17 was called the Flying Fortress for a reason. The “G” model had thirteen 50 caliber machine guns. But even with all that armament, the plane was still unable to fly missions deep into Germany because of the opposition from the Luftwaffe in the air and anti-aircraft artillery on the ground. It wasn’t early in 1944 that B-17’s started flying missions deeper into Germany because they were being escorted by long range fighters like the P-51 Mustang.
On one particular mission, earlier in the war, the base chaplain decided to come along with the crew. As the bomber group came under attack by German fighters, it was pure chaos within the plane. Every machine gun was firing at the attacking Germans. Eventually the German fighters peeled off and the anti-aircraft artillery started; 88 mm (3 ½ inch) shells that would explode all around the planes tearing holes in the skin of the plane, sometimes wounding the crew and sometimes knocking the plane out of the sky. The chaplain could see the fear in the men’s faces and he announced over the inter-com “Just remember men, we are surrounded by the Spirit of God here.” The tail gunner answered over the inter-com “You may surrounded by the Spirit of God up there, but back here in the tail there is no room for Him.” But just as he said that, a piece of shrapnel from an anti-aircraft shell passed through the tail of the plane; in one side and out the other, missing him completely. He immediately announced over the inter-com “Correction, God just walked in.”
Swindoll said that line is a perfect description of the first Christmas, God Just Walked In. There’s an old song by 4Him called A Strange Way To Save The World in which they sing:
To think of how it could have been,
If Jesus had come as He deserved.
There would have been no Bethlehem,
No lowly shepherds at His birth.
Jesus could've come to earth in any way that He wanted. But He chose to come in a virgin’s womb, be born as a baby, wrapped up in cloths, lying in a manger. He chose to have that connection with us. He chose to have the heavenly host announce His birth to the shepherds first. He chose to grow up and become a Man. He chose to have a ministry healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, casting out demons, giving life to the dead, and teaching the Word of God. He chose to suffer death on a Roman cross because He loves us, you and me, so much. That was God’s plan all along, from the beginning of time. One Bible commentary says this:
"The Infinite became finite; the Eternal was conformed to time; the Invisible became visible; the Supernatural One reduced Himself to the natural."
I like to read through the entire Christmas story on Christmas morning, so, December the 25th finds us first in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 1 verses 18-25:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a Son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.
And next in the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 verses 1-21:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.
And again in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 verses 1-12:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a Ruler
who will shepherd My people Israel.’ “
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
I love these passages of Scripture. Maybe it's because I love Christmas so much. I really do love Christmas. But it's not just because of that. I love the story, the history of Jesus' birth. As Rod has taught us, the Bible is one book, beginning to end. Beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation it is the story of Jesus. You can Jesus throughout the whole book.
You can see Him in the five books of the Torah. You see Him in Genesis chapter 1, He is the Creator. You can see Him in Genesis chapter 3, speaking with Adam after they sinned. How that must have hurt Him. You can see His crucifixion through the skins that He used to make garments for them. You can see Him in Genesis chapter 15, taking Abram outside and showing him the stars. You can see Him in Exodus chapter 12, He is the Passover Lamb who sheds His blood so that Israel may be free. You can see Him in Leviticus chapter 23, He is the Lord of all the festivals. You can see Him in Numbers chapter 21, He is the bronze snake that Moses raised up on a pole for people to look at and live. You can see Him in Deuteronomy chapter 21, He is the One hanged on a tree and cursed by His Father.
You can see Him throughout the books of history, Joshua through Esther, especially in the story of King David who was called a man after God’s own heart. You can see Him all through the wisdom books, Job through Song of Solomon, especially in Psalms. You can see Him throughout all of the Prophets, especially Isaiah.
You can read His very words in the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You can see Him in the church history found in the book of Acts. You see Him throughout letters of Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude. And you see Him in Revelation; the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God, slain for sins of the world.
It’s all His story. And He has asked us to partner with Him in this, the story of redemption, of sinners needing a redeemer, Jesus Christ. He loves us all so much that He gave us His light and took our darkness upon Himself. He gave us life and took death in our place, all because of His great love for us. And we have this hope, found in John 14:1-3, Jesus is speaking:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.
I get emails a couple times a month from Joni Eareckson Tada. I read in her email last week:
I pray that you, too, will see how the cradle leads to the cross. Take a moment to reflect on how Jesus’ birth must be celebrated in the context of His death and resurrection. For only then does His Advent into our dark world have meaning. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).”