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Summary: The hidden messages and deeper meanings of some of the Christmas story’s most enduring images. It is formatted in antiphonal fashion with Christmas carols interspersed throughout.

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MESSAGE IN A MANGER

Christmas Around The World—Part 2

This week Sarah and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. A few years back Sarah gave me one of the most thoughtful gifts for our anniversary. In fact it was several gifts. And I had the fun of opening several gifts throughout the day. What I didn’t know was that each gift was symbolic of a favorite memory of our years together. I was simply having a great time opening gifts.

She had come up with a list of favorite memories from each year of our marriage, she then individually packaged a gift that represented each of those memories. So at the end of the day I had about a dozen presents. She then asked me to think about each gift and what memory it represented from our life together. Each gift was great, but each gift had a deeper message from Sarah’s heart.

I wonder if sometime God doesn’t do those kinds of things with us. Most assuredly he did that during the first Christmas. When everything was said and done…the baby was born, the angels appeared, the shepherds paid homage…when everything was said and done. The bible tells us that Luke 2:19 (NIV) But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

I wonder what she was thinking. I wonder if she understood the hidden messages—the deeper messages of that first Christmas.

In 1984, Mark Lowry was asked to write a script for a church Christmas play. Lowry wrote a series of questions that he would like to ask Mary, the mother of Jesus. These questions were used as filler in between the scenes of the play. Six years later, Buddy Greene wrote the music; thus, the Christmas play script became the song.

Mary Did You Know?

DID YOU KNOW THE TIMING’S TALE?

The Fullness of Time Had Come

Luke 2:1-5 (NIV) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. [2] (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) [3] And everyone went to his own town to register.

[4] 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. [5] He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

I wonder if Mary knew that Jesus was born right on time, in exactly the right spot. The timing was important. Paul declares in his epistles, ‘the fullness of time had come.” Did Mary know that? Was she aware that all the maneuvering, the machinations, the census, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was precisely timed in God’s plan millennia before?

Jesus came, in fact, at exactly the right time. Even those who are not believers will say that it was the best of times for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be disseminated across the western world and beyond. Pax Romana, the Roman peace, had brought nations under the rule of a single emperor. People could travel on the Roman roads. There was a common language. But even those outside the Roman Empire saw a star that moved across the sky from the east, and they too came. It was the very best of times for the Son to come.

Timing was important for the rest of Jesus life also. Jesus was born on time. Jesus commenced his ministry on time. When his mother wanted him to start performing miracles, he told her that his time had not yet come. When the mobs tried to kill him he said his time to die had not yet come.

God’s timing is perfect, but I always tend to think that he’s late. Don’t you? I wonder if Mary thought the timing of that census couldn’t have been worse. I bet Joseph thought it was a huge inconvenience. I bet the innkeeper thought…those poor kids…having a baby on a night like tonight with every room occupied, nothing available but the cow-cave. Bad timing, that.

Eternal God Cages Himself Into Time

Luke 2:6-7 (NIV) While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, [7] and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I wonder if Mary understood that the eternal God who had invented time was now caging Himself into our time. Limiting himself to one location and one point of time. Limiting his knowledge to what he absorbed at the moment.

When you think about it, this is incredible—the marvel of the incarnation, to the astonishment of angels. This Christ, whom Isaiah saw seated on his throne in heaven, rises from his throne, and then he disappears from view. And to their utter amazement, in a miracle that is shielded from our view, the eternal Son of God, who was God and was with God, is found conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, taking human flesh from her, and then is born as a baby. They see him lying in a manger.

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