Lessons From the Record of Jesus’ Birth
MILLIONS are fascinated by events surrounding Jesus’ birth. This is seen by the multitude of Nativity scenes that are displayed and Nativity plays that are enacted around the world at Christmastime. Though fascinating, the events surrounding Jesus’ birth were not recorded in the Bible to entertain people. Rather, they form part of all Scripture that God inspired for teaching and for setting things straight.—2 Timothy 3:16.
If God had wanted Christians to celebrate Jesus’ birth, then the Bible would have provided the exact date. Does it? After mentioning that Jesus was born at a time when shepherds were out-of-doors at night watching their flocks, 19th-century Bible scholar Albert Barnes concluded: “It is clear from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December . . . At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. God has concealed the time of [Jesus’] birth. . . . Nor was it of consequence to know the time; if it had been, God would have preserved the record of it.”
By contrast, the four Gospel writers clearly inform us of the day on which Jesus died. It happened on the day of the Passover, which was held on the 14th of the Jewish month Nisan, in the spring. Moreover, Jesus specifically commanded his followers to commemorate that day in remembrance of him. (Luke 22:19) The Bible contains no such command to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, nor, for that matter, any other person’s birthday. Sadly, controversies over the date of Jesus’ birth may overshadow the more noteworthy events that took place about that time.
Parents Chosen by God
Out of the thousands of families in Israel, what kind of parents did God choose to raise his Son? Did He consider such factors as prominence and wealth to be important? No. Rather, Jehovah took note of the parents’ spiritual qualities. Examine Mary’s song of praise, as recorded at Luke 1:46-55, which she sang after being told of her privilege of becoming the mother of the Messiah. Among other things, she said: “My soul magnifies Jehovah . . . because he has looked upon the low position of his slave girl.” She humbly viewed herself as one of “low position,” Jehovah’s slave girl. More important, the beautiful expressions of praise in Mary’s song reveal that she was a spiritual person who had a good knowledge of the Scriptures. Though a sinful descendant of Adam, she was the ideal choice as the earthly mother of God’s Son.
What about Mary’s husband, who became Jesus’ adoptive father? Joseph was a man with a practical knowledge of carpentry. Because of his willingness to work hard with his hands, he was able to provide for a family that eventually numbered five sons and at least two daughters. (Matthew 13:55, 56) Joseph was not rich. When the time came for Mary to present her firstborn son at God’s temple, Joseph must have felt disappointed that he could not provide the sacrifice of a sheep. Instead, they had to make use of an allowance for the poor. With regard to the mother of a newborn son, God’s law stated: “If she cannot afford enough for a sheep, she must then take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering, and the priest must make atonement for her, and she must be clean.”—Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:22-24.
The Bible says that Joseph “was righteous.” (Matthew 1:19) For example, he did not have intercourse with his virgin wife until after the birth of Jesus. This prevented any misunderstanding as to who Jesus’ real Father was. For a newly married couple to abstain from intimate relations while living under the same roof could not have been easy, but it showed that they both treasured the privilege of being chosen to raise God’s Son.—Matthew 1:24, 25.
Like Mary, Joseph was a spiritual person. He stopped work every year and took his family on the three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem to attend the annual festival of the Passover. (Luke 2:41) Also, Joseph must have trained young Jesus in the weekly custom of participating in worship at the local synagogue, where God’s Word was read and explained. (Luke 2:51; 4:16.) Thus, there can be no doubt that God chose the right earthly mother and adoptive father for his Son.
A Grand Blessing for Humble Shepherds
In spite of the difficulty for his wife, who was now nine months pregnant, Joseph traveled to the city of his forefathers to be registered, in accord with Caesar’s decree. When the couple arrived in Bethlehem, they could not find lodging in the crowded city. Circumstances thus forced them to make use of a stable, where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. To strengthen their faith, Jehovah provided the humble parents with confirmation that this birth really was God’s will. Did he send a delegation of prominent older men from Bethlehem to reassure the couple? No. Instead, Jehovah God revealed the matter to hardworking shepherds who spent the night outdoors watching over their flocks.
God’s angel appeared to them and told them to go to Bethlehem, where they would find the newborn Messiah “lying in a manger.” Were these humble men shocked or embarrassed to hear that the newborn Messiah was in a stable? By no means! Without delay, they left their flocks and headed for Bethlehem. When they found Jesus, they related to Joseph and Mary what God’s angel had said. This, no doubt, strengthened the couple’s faith that all things were working out in the way that God had purposed. “The shepherds,” for their part, “went back, glorifying and praising God for all the things they heard and saw.” (Luke 2:8-20) Yes, in revealing matters to the God-fearing shepherds, Jehovah had made the right choice.
From the above, we learn what kind of people we need to be to enjoy Jehovah’s favor. We do not need to seek prominence or wealth. Rather, like Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds, we need to obey God and prove our love for him by putting spiritual interests ahead of material things. Indeed, there are fine lessons to be learned by meditating upon the record of events that took place about the time of Jesus’ birth.
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What does Mary’s offering two pigeons indicate?
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God chose to reveal the birth of Jesus to a few humble shepherds