The Bible’s story of Christmas is the third to the most powerful ever told. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the next most powerful, in my opinion. But the reason all this happened is the most powerful, the most wonderful, and the most unimaginable story possible! What a tremendous amount of LOVE Father God had for you and for me! We had no idea of such a God or that we might even need Him. We were much more interested in going our own way.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV, emphasis mine)
I’ve taken the verses below from the Amplified Bible so we can get the fullest meaning of the words and then from The Living Bible paraphrase so we get the scripture in a nutshell because sometimes reading from an unfamiliar version of the Bible opens our eyes to seeing new truth that we’ve skimmed over previously. Choose to read whichever you prefer or read both, as you like. I hope this combination will make us ponder more the implications of the Christmas story and realize anew what our wonderful, holy, loving Father did for us at this season.
John 1:1-5 Amplified Bible: In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. [Isaiah 9:6.] 2 He was present originally with God. 3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. 4 In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. 5 And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].
John 1:1-5 The Living Bible: Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. 3 He created everything there is – nothing exists that he didn’t make. 4 Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. 5 His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Luke 2:1-7 Amplified Bible: In those days it occurred that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole Roman empire should be registered. 2 This was the first enrollment, and it was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all the people were going to be registered, each to his own city or town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 To be enrolled with Mary, his espoused (married) wife, who was about to become a mother. [Matthew 1:18-25.] 6 And while they were there, the time came for her delivery, 7 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1-7 The Living Bible: 1 About this time Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the nation. 2 (This census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 Everyone was required to return to his ancestral home for this registration. 4 And because Joseph was a member of the royal line, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, King David’s ancient home – journeying there from the Galilean village of Nazareth. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; 7 and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.
Luke 2:8-18 Amplified Bible: 8 And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11 For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord! [Micah 5:2.] 12 And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. [1 Samuel 2:34; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:14.] 13 Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor]. 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. 16 So they went with haste and [by searching] found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known what had been told them concerning this Child, 18 And all who heard it were astounded and marveled at what the shepherds told them.
Luke 2:8-19 The Living Bible: That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly an angel appeared among them, and the landscape shone bright with the glory of the Lord. They were badly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! 11 The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born tonight in Bethlehem! 12 How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven -praising God: 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” they sang, “and peace on earth for all those pleasing him.” 15 When this great army of angels had returned again to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on! Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They ran to the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 The shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story expressed astonishment.
Shepherds were the very first ones to know exactly Who this new baby was. These people, who necessarily lived outside year-round, were considered outclassed by almost everyone else. Since all the descendants of King David had to go to Bethlehem to be registered and taxed, certainly some higher-classed people would have been present, but God chose to make Himself known to lowly shepherds. Perhaps because they were more willing to accept God’s Miracle than those who thought they knew all the law and had things figured out for themselves. Perhaps so we would know all are acceptable to God. Maybe because Jesus Himself said that He is the Good Shepherd, completing Isaiah’s thought in 53:6 that everyone has gone astray, like sheep without a shepherd, who have wandered where they should not have gone.
Like the shepherds told all they met of this great Miracle, can we do less when we see how much more a Miracle this Baby became? Let us in this season revisit that manger where the Babe was born, not to dwell there or to consider the lowliness of the place, but to remember just Who that Baby was: Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate, present at the creation of heaven and earth. Commander of angelic hosts who was willing to be born as a helpless baby and grow up as a child subject to human parents. Teacher, healer, feeder of thousands; then Lamb of God who died a most horrible death simply so you and I could become children of God and call Him our Father! Today the Messiah, the Jewish hope of the ages, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God. That is the One we celebrate this week. Hallelujah!