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The Foundations of the Christmas Story

The whole world is celebrating right now!  One man came into the world and changed it so much that we haven’t forgotten.  Some people celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, and some just like to celebrate Christmas.  Whether they believe in Christ or not, they like the things that Christmas brings.  They like the love, the happiness, the sharing, and the caring that happens at Christmas time.  Those are foundations of Christianity.  However, this article is not a defense of Christianity.  If you truly know what a Christian life is all about,the spirit that everyone feels at Christmas, no one can deny that it is a better way to live.  This article is not about that, but it is about the actual story.  The story of a baby being born to become the savior of the world.

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If we read in Matthew chapter one, we find beginning with verse 8 to the end of the chapter:  ” This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

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But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do no 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 the people from their sins.’

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All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will 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 had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus”(Matthew 1:18-25).

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The prophets are mentioned here.   Those prophets are more important than we realize.  Who are those prophets?  They are the Jewish prophets from the Old Testament. When Jesus was born, the New Testament didn’t exist, and the only scriptures the people had were the Old Testament.

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Let’s begin with Joseph being called “the son of David.”  David was considered a great Jewish King, and he lived a long, long time before Joseph. He was not literally Joseph’s father, but they were from the same family, and this is very important.  The book of Matthew was written some time between 50-70 A. D.  Jesus was actually born about 3-4 B. C. King David was born between 1040-1030 B. C.  King David was also in the genealogy of Mary.  This is important because the prophet Samuel prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:11-13  that a decedent of King David would establish a kingdom that would have no end. Samuel lived around 930 B. C. That is a long, long time before the birth of Jesus.

If you continue reading in the first chapter of Matthew written above, the prophets said that they were supposed to look for someone who was born of a virgin.  Matthew is talking about the prophet Isaiah. He is the one who said Jesus would be born of a virgin.  He prophesied in 740 B. C.  That prophecy is found in Isaiah 7:14. Jesus wasn’t born until about 3-4 B. C. How did Isaiah know his mother would be a virgin so many years before he was born?

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If you continue, in Matthew 2, the wise men came from the east because they knew something was happening.  These were magi.  The magi were a tribe from India who were known in the old world for studying the stars.  They knew where all the stars were, and when a big one appeared that hadn’t been there before, they were extremely surprised and decided they needed to check it out.

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Continuing on, in Matthew 2: 5 & 6, they asked King Herod’s chief priest and teachers of the law where the messiah was supposed to be born, and they said in Bethlehem in Judea. They knew because there was a prophecy in Micah 5:2 in the Old Testament that said that is where the Messiah they were looking for would be born.  Micah prophesied between 750-686 B. C. How did he know so many years before Jesus was born where Jesus would be born?

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Continuing in chapter 2 of Matthew, Joseph knew that King Herod was looking for the baby wanting to kill him, so he got up in the middle of the night and took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to get away from King Herod.  The prophet Hosea in Hosea 11:1 said this was going to happen. Hosea prophesied in the 8th century B. C., a long time before Jesus was even born.  How did he know what was going to happen so many years in the future?

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The next prophecy is very sad, but it happened. You can read about it even in history books.  King Herod was so scared of Jesus that he sent his soldiers out to kill every baby boy who was less than 2 years old in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.  King Herod heard that Jesus was a king, and he wanted to retain his throne and was willing to kill anyone to do it.  History records him killing more than those baby boys. He killed many people in his own household trying to insure that he stayed on the throne.  In Matthew chapter 2: 17 & 18, Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah from Jeremiah 31:15.  He said that Rachel is crying because here children are no more. Rachel is one of the mothers of Jews.  Jeremiah prophesied about these babies being killed in 626 B. C.  How did he know so many years ahead of time that all those babies would be killed?

There are many many prophecies surrounding Jesus like this that came true, more than 100. The last one in Matthew 2 says that the prophets knew that Jesus would be from Nazareth.  Jesus was raised in Nazareth after he and his family came back from Egypt.  If I continue into the next chapter, there are prophecies surrounding John the Baptist too.  John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ.

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This is the background of the Christmas story.  People knew a long, long time before Jesus came what the circumstances of his birth would be. They were looking for him.  Matthew, in a way, is like a lawyer. His thesis is that Jesus is the messiah, the one that God promised from the Old Testament.  If you know anything about Aristotle’s logic, it says that you start with a point, and then you give at least three reasons that it is true, and that proves your point.  Just in discussing the first two chapters of Matthew with you, we found  7 reasons why Jesus fits the profile of the messiah that the world was looking for.  That is 4 more than we need according the Aristotle to assume that something is true.  If we continued studying prophecy, we would be overwhelmed with the amount of prophecies fulfilled in Jesus.

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Many people say they are prophets. Nostradamus said he was a prophet, but were his prophecies in detail like these? No, his prophecies were so general they could have meant anything.  Mohammed wanted everyone to believe he was a prophet.  Could he prophecy like this? No, in fact, if you read about how Islam got started, he listened to Jewish and Christian preachers and wanted to be a prophet. When he told the people in Mecca where he was from that he was a prophet, they laughed him out of town. They probably knew about the last chapter in the Bible that says no one should add to it and about Galatians chapter 1 that says if anyone teaches you any other gospel, they are to be condemned. The people in Mecca had too much education to believe him. He went to the villages to the uneducated people, people who couldn’t read,and they believed him, and he went back to Mecca for revenge and overthrew the city forcing the people to become his followers with a sword.  History states all of this.  Jesus didn’t force any of us to follow him.  There were no prophecies saying Mohammed or Buddha were coming, but there was an overwhelming amount of prophecies saying Jesus was coming.  God made a plan from the foundation of the world to bring us back to him.  In Genesis 3, is where the first prophecy about Jesus is, when Adam and Even sinned and were thrown out of the Garden.  At that point, God let us know there was someone coming to bring us back to him.  This plan is the background for the story of the birth of Jesus.

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How did all those prophets know that Jesus was coming and all the details surrounding his birth so many, many years before it happened?  There can only be one answer.  We see the prophecies came true, so those prophets were truly prophets.  God gave them the information just as they said.  That means that God is God.  The Bible is from God, and Jesus is the messiah from God.  The birth of Jesus is a miraculous event in more than one way.  We understand that we really don’t know the exact date of his birth, but we understand that his birth is something worth celebrating.  We all have a chance to live with God when we die because he came to show us the way.  Our savior was born, and we want to celebrate! We shouldn’t leave Christmas behind, but celebrate it all year round! It is one of the most wonderful things that ever happened in this world!

 

 

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