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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Richard Newton :: The Birth of Christ

Richard Newton :: The Life of Jesus Christ—The Birth of Christ

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THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

There is something very dismal about the darkness of night. And if you are sick, or suffering during the night, how slowly its hours pass away! and how long the night seems! And then, what a pleasant thing it is when the sun rises, and scatters his cheerful beams around! Then the birds begin to sing, and the flowers open their leaves, and unfold their loveliness, and everything seems bright and beautiful.

Before Jesus was born into our world the state of things here was compared to night. The prophet Isaiah was speaking of this, when he said "Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isaiah 9:2). And it was the effect of Christ's coming into our world that he was speaking of again, when he said, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2). The birth of Christ was to be like the morning coming after a long, dark night. The prophet Malachi compares the coming of Christ to the rising of the sun. This is what he means when he says: "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings,"-or his beams (Malachi 4:2). Christ's coming was like sunrise to the world.

The birth of Christ was the most important event that ever took place in the history of our world. This is the great event of which we are now to speak. And in speaking of it, there are four things connected with it to be considered. These are: the time of his birth; the place of his birth; the circumstances of his birth; and the reasons for his birth. Or to express it more briefly: when, where, how, and why Christ was born.

I. WHEN

We begin them by considering when Christ was born.

Any Sunday school boy or girl can answer the question, "When was Christ born?" We reckon our years from the time when this great event took place. We all know what year it is that we are living in. We call this the year 1913. And what we mean by this numbering of the years is, that Jesus was born into our world nineteen hundred and thirteen years ago. Learned men who have examined this subject carefully, tell us that the birth of Christ really took place four years before this. They say that these four years ought to be added to these 1913. This would make it actually nineteen hundred and seventeen years since the birth of Christ. But we may well be content to let the figures stand as they are. We call this year, Anno Domini 1913. This means in the year of our Lord 1913. And every time we speak of the year in which we are living, we are, as it were, pointing back to the time of our Saviour's birth.

And what St. Luke tells us agrees with this. He informs us that John the Baptist began his ministry "…in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (Luke 3:1). John was then thirty years old. This was our Saviour's age, too, for he and John were born in the same year, within six months of each other. The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar corresponds with the year 30, Anno Domini, or the thirtieth year of our present way of reckoning time. And Tiberius Caesar began his reign when John and Jesus were about fifteen years old. And as twice fifteen make thirty, this shows us that our present way of reckoning time from the birth of Christ is correct. But some one may ask the question whether there was nothing said in the Old Testament about the time when Christ was to be born? Yes; there were two things said, and it may be well enough for us to take a look at them here.

One of these things about the time of Christ' birth was spoken of by the patriarch Jacob. The old man is on his death-bed. He gathers his sons round him, that he might, as we say, " tell them their fortunes," or let them know something about what would happen to them in the future. He begins with Reuben, the oldest, and goes on to Benjamin, the youngest. The most important of all the things he had to say, was when he came to speak of his son Judah. And the reason of this was, that Judah was the head, or father of the tribe from which Christ was to be born. In speaking of Judah, this was part of what he said: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet until Shiloh come" (Genesis 49:10). A great many difficult questions have been raised upon this passage. We need not trouble ourselves about these. The real meaning of it is simple enough for any thoughtful young person to understand. Shiloh here means the peacemaker. This refers to Christ. By the rod, or sceptre, here spoken of, in connection with Judah, and the law-giver, Jacob meant to say that Judah was to continue a distinct tribe, and be at the head of the nation until Christ came. And this was the case. But very shortly after our Saviour left the world, Jerusalem was destroyed. Judah ceased to be a distinct tribe, and lost its authority as the head of the nation. Unless then our Saviour had been born about the time that his birth did take place, the prophecy of Jacob wound not have been full-filled. But "the Scripture cannot be broken" (cf. John 10:35).

Jacob's prophecy was fulfilled. Christ, the Shiloh, did come while Judah was a distinct tribe, as indicated by the rod, or sceptre, and having the chief authority in the nation, as was denoted by its being the law-giver. And this was what Jacob taught us about the time when Christ was to be born.

And then there is another passage in the Old Testament which is very interesting on account of what it teaches us in reference to the time of Christ's birth. This is found in the book of Daniel. And the interesting thing about this passage is that it gives the date of Christ's birth, and tells us in figures when he was to be born.

When Daniel lived, the Israelites were captives in Babylon. But Daniel found out by studying the Bible, and by prayer, that the time of their captivity was nearly ended. And he told his countrymen for their encouragement, that an order, or decree, would soon be issued by the authority of the king of Babylon, giving them permission to go back to their own country, and to build again the walls of Jerusalem. And then, to encourage them still more, he went on to tell about the coming of the great Messiah, of whom all the prophets had spoken. And one of the things which he told them concerning him, was the time when he would be born. In the ninth chapter of Daniel, and the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth verses, we read what the prophet said to them on this subject. These are his words: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgressions…" This is Daniel's famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. Learned men have found great difficulties in explaining this prophecy, and have started many hard questions about it. We have nothing to do with these. All that we need trouble ourselves about is just to get the plain, simple meaning of the passage. And it is not hard to do this.

The decree, or commandment, for rebuilding Jerusalem, spoken of by Daniel here, is that of which we read in Ezra 7:11. This was issued by King Ahasuerus. And Daniel said that within seventy weeks from that time, Christ, the Messiah, was to be born, and to live, and to die. Now, in the way in which the prophets used to speak of time, a day was counted for a year. And as there are seven days in a week, seventy weeks multiplied by seven would give four hundred and ninety days, or four hundred and ninety years, as the period of time of which Daniel was here speaking. And what Daniel here taught the people was, that within the period of four hundred and ninety years from the time when Ahasuerus should issue his decree for rebuilding Jerusalem, the birth, and the life, and the death of Christ would all take place.

Now let us look at these figures for a moment, and see how this sum works out. Get a reference Bible, and turn to Ezra 7:11. Here we have the commandment, or decree, to which Daniel refers. At the head of the column of references in your Bible you will find that the date of this decree was four hundred and fiftyseven years before Christ. This brings us to the time when Christ was to be born. It was to be four hundred and fifty-seven years after that decree went forth. At the time of his death our Saviour was thirty-three years old. Now add these two amounts together, four hundred and fifty-seven and thirty-three, and the result is four hundred and ninety. And so Daniel's figures do not lie. They tell the simple truth. Within the seventy weeks, or the four hundred and ninety years of which he spoke, from the time when Ahasuerus issued his decree for rebuilding Jerusalem, all the great events which he foretold came to pass. Messiah was born; Messiah lived; Messiah died, or was cut off. And so there are four ways in which we can tell when Christ was born. We can count back from the year in which we are living, and tell when this great event took place. We can take St. Luke's account of the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Jesus was thirty years old, and work out the date of his birth from that. We can go back to old Jacob's prophecy about Judah and Shiloh, and trace it out from that; or we can take Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, or the four hundred and ninety years, and find out how exactly that points out to us when Christ was born.

II. WHERE

The next point we are to speak of, is the place of his birth, or where Christ was born.

Seven hundred years before he came into our world, the place where he was to be born had been distinctly foretold. The prophet Micah had said: "And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth to me, that is to be ruler in Israel." Micah 5:2. This was the prophecy.

And see how it was fulfilled. About the time that Jesus was born, we read that "There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he that is born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him?'" (Matthew 2:1-2). This led Herod to call "the chief priests and scribes of the people together, demanding of them where Christ should be born." The answer they gave him was: "In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet," (Matthew 2:5). And thus, to prove this, they quoted the prophecy of Micah, of which we have just spoken.

And how strangely it came to pass that Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, should have been at Bethlehem when the time came for him to be born. They had been living at the little town of Nazareth, in Galilee. This was far away from Bethlehem. They had no business and no relatives or friends to bring them to Bethlehem. But God put it into the heart of Augustus Caesar, the Emperor of Rome, in his imperial palace, in that great city, to send forth a decree for enrolling, or making a census, of the inhabitants of Syria, as well as other parts of the Roman Empire. This rendered it necessary for every family to go up to the city of their fathers; and this brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem just in time for Jesus to be born there. If that decree had not been issued at all, or if it had been issued a month earlier, or a month later, there would have been nothing to call Joseph and Mary away from Nazareth at that precise time, and Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem. The Emperor of Rome little thought, when he issued that decree, that he was helping to fulfill a Jewish prophecy, written seven hundred years before, which foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. But in this strange way, God caused that prophecy to be fulfilled. How wonderful this was! When we think about it, we may well say in the language of the hymn:

"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm."

The town in which Christ was born was called "Bethlehem Ephratah," or "Bethlehem of Judea," to distinguish it from another town of the same name in the tribe of Zebulon.

The meaning of Bethlehem is "house of bread." This was a very appropriate name to be given to the birth-place of him who came down from heaven on purpose to be the bread of life to a hungry and perishing world. Bethlehem is situated about six miles south of Jerusalem. In itself, it has never been a place of much importance. The prophet Micah called it "a little place" in his day. And such it has always been. Its present population is not more than about three thousand. They are chiefly peasants who live by the cultivation of their fields or gardens. The appearance of the town as you approach is very beautiful. It is situated on a narrow ridge. The sides of this ridge are terraced down to the deep valleys that lie beneath. These terraces are well cultivated, being covered with rows of olive trees, intermingled with vines and fig trees. They sweep in graceful curves round the hill like natural stairs.

We cannot help feeling an interest in Bethlehem, because of what we learn from the Old Testament of its connection with David. It was here that Jesse the father of David lived. Here David was born. It was in Bethlehem, and in the fields and forests around, that he kept his father's sheep when a boy. It was here he fought the lion and the bear that came to steal the lambs of his flock. And it was here that the prophet Samuel came, at the command of God, to anoint the ruddy-faced shepherd boy to be the future king of Israel. Here David lived till he left his sheep to become a soldier. And this is the reason why Bethlehem was called "the city of David."

But Jesus was born in Bethlehem; and this is what will give the place its greatest distinction forever. When we hear, or read of Bethlehem, the first thing that we think about is the stable in which the Saviour of the world was born, and the manger in which that child of wonders lay. And, of course, the first object of interest to every one who visits Bethlehem, is that most sacred spot-the place of the Nativity. It was so with my companions and myself, when we arrived at Bethlehem.

We went directly to where, we are told, that stable once stood. Of course, there is no stable there now. Instead of this a large church, called "The Convent of the Nativity," covers the hallowed spot. This is an enormous building, said to have been erected by the Empress Helena, in the early part of the fourth century. It is therefore one of the oldest specimens of Christian architecture in the world. What is called the nave of this great church, that is the body of it, or the part that stands between the chancel rail and the chief entrance, in front of the church, is the portion of greatest interest. From this, we went down to an underground vault, over which, and on account of which, this vast church was built. Here, at the entrance of a long winding passage, cut out of the limestone rock, of which the hill of Bethlehem is composed, we found ourselves in a small irregular shaped chapel. This chapel is said to stand just where the stable stood in which Joseph and Mary found lodging on that memorable night. It is dimly lighted with silver lamps. There are two small recesses in this chapel nearly opposite each other. In one of these recesses, on the north side, is a marble slab set in the floor. This slab has a silver star fastened on its surface. This star is said to mark that most sacred of all places-the place of the Nativity of the Son of God. Around this star, cut into the marble, are these words in Latin: Hic de Virgine Maria, Jesus Christus Natus Est; in English they are these: "Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary."

I never can forget the strange and impressive thoughts and feelings that filled my mind and heart as I stood musing there. That spot marked the place, and the time, to which everything had looked forward since our world was made. And that spot marks the place, and the time, to which everything will look backward while our world shall last. It was very affecting to stand there and think of Jesus, the Son of God, seated now at the right hand of the Father in heaven, where "all the angels of God worship him," and then to think of the helpless little one born in that stable at Bethlehem. And it was very comforting then, and there, to take up the simple words of "The Little Child's Hymn for Night and Morning," and say:

"Once thou wert in cradle laid,
Baby bright in manger-shade,
With the oxen, and the cows,
And the lambs outside the house;
Now thou art above the sky;
Thou canst hear a baby cry."

We should be thankful that we know so well the place where Christ was born.

III. HOW

And now we come to speak, in the third place, of the circumstances of the birth of Christ, or how he was born.

And what this point of our subject will lead us to consider is the contrasts that attended the birth of Christ, or the strangely opposite circumstances that marked it. We have only time to look briefly at three of these.

There was a strange neglect on the one hand, attending our Saviour's birth; and yet, on the other hand, there was a strange attention marking it.

Here was taking place the birth of that great Deliverer, whose coming had been foretold from the beginning of the world. All the types and ceremonies of the Jewish religion had pointed to him. All their prophets had told about him. They had spoken plainly of the time when and the place where he was to be born. The Jewish teachers had been studying those prophecies all their days, and teaching them to the people. And yet, they did not understand them themselves. They ought to have known that the time had come when Christ was to be born; but they did not know it. They ought to have had a committee of their best and wisest men sent down to Bethlehem, to be looking out for the birth of Christ, and to be ready to spread abroad the good news as soon as they knew that the birth of the promised Saviour had taken place. But they had no such committee there. They were not expecting the birth of Christ. No one was there to bid him welcome into the world he came to save. The chief priests and rulers of the Jews knew nothing about it when it took place. They paid no attention to it. Here was strange neglect.

But then, in contrast to this there was strange attention paid to the birth of Christ from other quarters. No committee of the Jews from Jerusalem was there to welcome him. But a committee of angels from heaven was there. In the fields near Bethlehem were shepherds "keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14). Such a committee of angels never came from heaven to earth, before or since. And such a song of gladness as they sang was never heard from lips of men, or angels. Here we see what strange neglect of Christ's birth there was on the part of men, and what strange attention was given to it on the part of angels.

Now look at another of these strange contrasts that marked the birth of Christ. There was strange poverty attending it, and yet strange riches, too. There was strange poverty attending the birth of Christ. Joseph and Mary were very poor. The fact, that a stable was the only place they could find to lodge in, when they came to Bethlehem, was the best proof of this that could be given. It is said they went there, "because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). No doubt this was so. But even if the inn (or the khan, or caravansary, the public place appointed for strangers to lodge in) was full, room might have been found for them somewhere else. If they had been rich people, travelling with chariots, and horses, and servants, no doubt, better quarters would have been found for them somewhere. But they were travelling alone. They probably had but one ass for Mary to ride on. We read of no servants attending them, and Joseph, no doubt, made the journey on foot. Everything about them showed that they were poor. They had no money to pay for lodgings; so no lodgings were offered them.

Joseph and Mary belonged to the royal family of David. Their infant son was owner of all things. It was he whom the prophet represented as laying his hand on all the treasures of the globe, and saying? "The gold is mine, and the silver is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8). And yet they were very poor. There was strange poverty here. But then there was strange wealth, too. The visitors from heaven were not the only ones who came to show attention to this infant Saviour. Wise men from a far-off country in the East came, too. We shall have occasion to speak more particularly of them hereafter. But they supplied the want of which we are now speaking. They brought wealth to this family who were burdened with poverty. These men brought presents to the infant King, whose birth they had come to honor. And one of the gifts they brought was gold (cf. Matthew 2:11). We are not told how much gold they brought. But these men were, no doubt, very wealthy. They would not have undertaken so long a journey, for such a purpose as this, unless they had been well off. They are even supposed by some to have been kings themselves; but we have no proof of this. Yet, when we know they were rich themselves, and that they came to visit one "who was born a king," we may well suppose that the amount of gold they would give, under such circumstances, must have been very considerable. No doubt there was enough of it to make a poor family, like Joseph's, feel quite rich. And so we may truly say that there was strange poverty, and strange wealth connected with the birth of Christ.

And then there was still another contrast connected with the birth of Christ. We see a strange humiliation, and a strange glory blending together in his birth.

It was a strange humiliation that the place of his birth should have been a little town like Bethlehem, instead of in a famous, great city like Jerusalem. It was a strange humiliation that he should have been born in a stable, and not in some rich man's house or palace. It was a strange humiliation that the company into which he was introduced at his birth, were not the rich, and the great princes and nobles of the earth; but dumb animals-even the beasts of the stall. Well may we say, of his entrance into our world, as we do in the Collect for Advent Sunday, that "He came to visit us in great humility!" And yet, what a strange contrast we see, when we look away from the humiliation of his birth, to the great glory that attended him even while he was lodged in the stable, and cradled in the manger! We see this glory in what the angels said about him to the shepherds of Bethlehem. They said that the birth of that child, who was born in such strange humility, should yet be the cause of "great joy to all people." They said that though a manger was his cradle, and his head was lying "low with the beasts of the stall" yet he was "a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11); that his coming into the world, would bring "peace on earth, and good will toward men;" and at the same time would bring "Glory to God in the highest"-glory to God in the highest places; glory to God among the highest creatures, and glory to God in the highest measure.

And when we think of these strange contrasts that attended the birth of Christ; the neglect on the one hand, and the attention on the other; the poverty on the one hand, and the wealth on the other; the humiliation on the one hand, and the glory on the other, we have clearly set before us the strangely opposite circumstances that marked his birth, or in other words we see HOW Christ was born.

IV. WHY

There is one other thing for us to consider in connection with the birth of Christ; and this is the LESSONS that it teaches us, or WHY he was born.

There are two lessons taught us about God's thoughts, and two lessons about God's feelings, when we consider how Christ was born. The Bible tells us that "God's thoughts are not our thoughts," and we see this very clearly when we consider what the birth of Christ teaches us about God's thoughts. One thing we are thus taught is-How little God thinks of places!

Men often speak and think as if the place in which we are born and in which we live was of very great importance. They think that we cannot be great, or honorable, or good, unless we are born, or live, in some famous place. But when we remember that Jesus Christ the greatest person who ever trod this earth was born in little Bethlehem, and lived for the greater part of his life in a place so despised as Nazareth, then we are taught this lesson-how little God thinks of places! If we are not like Jesus; if we have nothing good or great in ourselves; then, no matter where we are born, or where we live, we can never be of much use in the world, and never have any real honor, "the honor that cometh from God." But, if we are like Jesus; if we have anything really great or good in ourselves; then, no matter how insignificant the place of our birth, or how poor and despised the place in which we live, still, like Jesus, we may be useful, and good, and great. And this is one of God's thoughts we are taught by the birth of Christ.

And then, the other thought of God, which the birth of Christ shows us, is-how little he thinks of earthly riches! Men think it is having what is called property, houses and lands, and gold and silver, which makes people rich. But this is not God's thought about it. And God's thought is the right one. It is not property,-that which we can only have for a little while, and which we cannot take with us when we die, that makes us rich; no, but it is character,-that which is truly our own, which death cannot take away from us, which will go with us into eternity, and be ours forever. It is only this, which can make us truly rich.

Here is an incident that shows us the folly of supposing that merely having gold and silver can really make us rich.

"Rich for a Moment"

Sometime ago, the Britannia, an English man-of-war, was wrecked off the coast of Brazil. She had on board a large number of kegs filled with Spanish dollars. Some of them were brought on deck at the time of the wreck, in the hope that there might be an opportunity of saving them. But the vessel was going to pieces so fast, that it was soon seen the only hope of saving the lives of those on board was to leave everything behind, and get into the boats. The last boat was about to push off from the sinking wreck, when a young midshipman went back to see if any one was still on board. To his surprise there sat a sailor, who had broken open the heads of some of these kegs, and was heaping up the silver dollars all around him. "What are you doing there?" shouted the midshipman. "Don't you know the vessel is going to pieces, and will sink in a few moments?"

"Let her go," said the foolish man. "I've lived a poor wretch all my life, and I'm determined to die rich."

This was acting like a madman. And yet how many people are doing the very same thing! This world is only like a sinking wreck. And those who spend all their time here in trying to get money, are following this example of the foolish sailor. How different it was with Jesus! When he was on earth he had neither houses nor land, neither gold nor silver. He was born in a stable. He said of himself, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). When he sailed on the lake, it was in a borrowed boat. When he rode into Jerusalem, it was on a borrowed ass-Matthew 21:2-3. When they called upon him to pay taxes, he borrowed the money from a fish to pay for himself and the apostle Peter-Matthew 27:24-27. And when he died, he was buried in a borrowed tomb. And yet, in the midst of all this poverty, 'Jesus was the richest man that ever lived.' He was rich, not only because he really owned everything in the world, but because he was rich in himself-rich in his own character-rich in goodness and in grace. In this way he is not only rich in himself, but is able to make others rich also. And this is what he means when he says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayst be rich" (Revelation 3:18). This means the grace of God, which Jesus has to give. There is nothing like grace to make us rich. It makes the soul rich for eternity. The richest king in the world is only a poor man if he be without this grace. The poorest beggar in the world is a rich man if he only have this grace. And so we may well say that the birth of Christ teaches us two lessons about the thoughts of God. It teaches us how little God thinks of places; and how little he thinks of earthly riches-of gold and silver.

And then there are two lessons about God's feelings that we are taught by the birth of Christ. It teaches us-HOW GOD FEELS TOWARDS SIN.

We have many illustrations of his feelings on this subject. See him sending his angel to drive Adam and Eve out of Paradise, as soon as they had sinned. See him cursing the ground on account of sin, so that it should be barren and desolate, or bring forth thorns and thistles (cf. Genesis 3:17-18). See him sending the waters of the deluge, and drowning the world for its wickedness. See him commanding the fiery storm to burst forth in its fury, and consume the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. See him sending earthquakes to rend the globe, and lightnings to blast it, and storms and tempests to waste it, and plagues and pestilences to destroy men's lives; all these things show us what God's feelings are towards sin. They are all illustrations of the meaning of that text, in which God speaks of sin, as "the abominable thing that he hates" (Jeremiah 44:4). But all these things put together do not show us what God's feelings are towards sin so clearly and strongly as the birth of Christ does. And, of course, when we speak of the birth of Christ here, we speak of that in connection with his life and his death. He was born to die, and to die upon the cross. There was but a step between Bethlehem and Calvary-the manger and the cross. And when we see Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord of life and glory nailed to the accursed tree, in shame and disgrace, bleeding, agonizing, dying on account of sin; when we remember that it was necessary for Christ to suffer all this, before one sin could be pardoned; then we are taught, in a way that nothing else could teach us, how God feels towards sin. And so we may well say that the birth of Christ teaches us a lesson about God's feelings towards sin. It shows us how God hates sin.

And then there is another lesson about God's feelings taught us by the birth of Christ. It teaches us how GOD LOVES SINNERS, at the same time that he hates their sin.

We must not think that God loves us because Jesus was born and lived and died for us. This is not so. No; but the truth is that Jesus was born, and suffered, and died for us, because God loves us. God's love was the fountain. The birth, and sufferings, and death of Christ were the stream that flowed out from that fountain. Jesus came into our world to tell us of the love of God, and to be himself the proof of that love. This was what he taught us when he uttered those wonderful words in John 3:16, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is a most glorious, golden text. It is the sweetest verse in the Bible. It seems as if the whole Bible had been pressed into it. And when we think of the birth and death of Christ, of the manger and the cross, we have the best illustration that can be given of the meaning of this precious passage. And this is what the apostle means when he says, "Herein is love,"-the evidence, or proof of love-"not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Jesus was born to tell us of God's love; and then, that we might tell others, tell all people that God loves them.

"God Loves Me." Some time ago two gentlemen were riding together; as they were about to separate, one of them said to the other:

"Do you ever read your Bible?"

"Yes, but I get no benefit from it, because, to tell you the truth, I feel that I do not love God."

"Neither did I," replied the other, "but I found from the Bible that God loved me. And he loves you, too, my friend."

This was something that gentleman had never thought of before. It had a great effect upon him. As he said afterwards, in speaking about it, it made him feel "as if he had been lifted off the saddle up into the skies." He began to read the Bible, as he had never read it before. He learned the great lesson that God loved him; and the sense of that love brought him to Jesus, and he soon become an earnest, faithful Christian.

"God Loves Bad Children"

"What kind of children does God love?" said a teacher, one day to his class.

"Good children! Good children," was the answer from several voices.

The teacher was silent. The children saw that he did not think the answer correct, and knew not what to say. "My dear children," said he, "the Bible teaches us that there is none that doeth good, no not one" Romans 3:12. This applies to children as well as to grown people. No one then, young or old, can be loved of God, or saved by him because they are good.

"Then how can we be saved?" asked a little girl in his class.

"We can be saved," said the teacher, "as bad children, as sinners. Remember that 'Jesus Christ came not to call the righteous (those who think themselves good) but sinners (those who know and feel themselves bad) to repentance and salvation' (cf. Matthew 9:13). Remember, too, that 'Christ died for the ungodly' (Romans 9:6). What the Bible teaches is, that God loves bad children, and will save them if they believe in Jesus."

"Oh? I'm glad of that, for I know that I am a bad child," said the little girl, as she burst into tears. And so she first began to learn the lesson of God's love for sinners, which we are taught by the birth of Christ.

I will close this subject with one other incident. It illustrates both the lessons we have been speaking of, as taught us by the birth of Christ; the lesson of God's feeling towards sin, and his feeling toward sinners.

"A Just God and a Saviour"

This story is about two boys who lived in Scotland. In their childhood they played together, and loved each other very much. After awhile they separated. For a long, long time they had never seen each other. They met at last, under very strange circumstances. One of them had turned out badly. He had committed a crime, and was brought into court to have the sentence due to that crime passed upon him. The other boy was now the judge in this very court. When the poor prisoner saw that the judge was his old friend, he thought that he would certainly let him off very easy. When the case was stated, instead of passing sentence at once, the judge called for the law book which stated what the penalty was for the offence which had been committed. The penalty was a fine. Two sums were specified in the law, one very small, the other very large. The poor man thought that the judge, as his old friend, would surely give him the smallest sum to pay. Instead of this he gave him the heaviest penalty. This was a sum of money he never could pay, and which would send him to prison for life. The poor fellow's heart sank within him like lead, and his head dropped on his bosom.

"George, George," said the judge, "I have fixed this heavy penalty, as a just judge, to show how much I hate the sin you have committed; but to show how much I love you, as my old friend, I intend to pay all the fine myself, so that you may go free." And so God acts towards us as "a just God, and a Saviour," to show how he hates sin. He appointed the heaviest penalties to be borne of our sins; and then to show how he loves sinners, he let his own beloved Son come and bear those penalties for us that we might go free.

"Jesus paid it all-all the debt we owe." And the blessed truth for us to know, is that "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

And thus we have spoken of the four things connected with the birth of Christ which we proposed to consider. We have tried to show as simply as possible: when Christ was born; where Christ was born; how Christ was born, and why Christ was born.

God grant that all young persons who read these pages may receive "the innumerable benefits" that he intended should follow from the birth of Christ!

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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