Summary: No one pays that much attention to the wrapping. It’s what is inside that counts . . . right? Maybe this Christmas we should stop and consider how the gift was wrapped.
Pt. 2 - In Humility
There is usually very little attention paid to the wrappings. Even if great time and effort is made to make sure each corner is tucked and folded perfectly. Even if the bow is picked to match exactly. Even if every seam is exact. Most of the time all the attention is paid to the content. However, over the next few weeks and during this Christmas season I want us to reconsider what the content was wrapped in.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly: It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him in strips of cloth and set Him down in a manger, since there was no room for them in the inn.
I. In Humility
I've already said we push past wrappings and run to the contents. We are trying to draw attention to and spend some time considering the wrappings. So last, week we said one of the most profound statements regarding Jesus is that "The Word became flesh!" He was wrapped in skin. Now I want to stop and recognize that Jesus was not only wrapped in skin or humanity but, He was also and significantly wrapped in humility.
Why wasn't Jesus birthed or wrapped in Jerusalem (the capital)? Why wasn't He deposited in Caesarea? Herod had built a city we would like. After walking through a dry and barren land you crest the hill and come to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and sprawling before you is a city like Myrtle Beach. He had a fresh water swimming pool built into the sea by piping fresh water 4 miles. Theater, arena, shops, and a man made harbor that would hold 300 ships. Why not wrap Jesus there? Those cities were fit for a king. Those cities were worthy of a savior. Why not position the King of Kings in New York rather than in Bridge Creek? Instead . . . God wraps Jesus in humility. He wraps Him in Bethlehem and in swaddling clothes. Let me stop and examine the wrappings just a moment before I make application for us.
Herod asks for information regarding Jesus' birth location. The priests reflect on prophecy that says Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem? A humble setting. No palace. No satin sheets. A cave or stable. A nondescript community positioned outside the walls of Jerusalem. Overlooked. Underestimated. In fact, the prophecy references that Jesus' birth forces Bethlehem to move up from the rear and lead. So, He is born into a town that was used to being last or the least.
I want you to get this . . . On the tenth day of the first month of the year (five days before Passover), every family was required to choose a lamb for Passover, per the instructions given by God to Moses in Exodus 12. Jewish historians record that the lambs were brought from the fields of Bethlehem to the south up to Jerusalem and through the Northeast gate of the city by the pool of Bethesda, called the “Sheep Gate." Josephus says 250,000 lambs were offered in sacrifice of Passover. He says so many sheep were offered that the priests would pour the blood and water over the Eastern wall of Jerusalem and it would flow like a river down the Kidron Valley (by the way you can see the Eastern wall from Garden of Gethsamene - get that visual in mind as Jesus watched the blood of 250,000 lambs being poured over wall He is in garden wrestling with the call to be The Lamb!) The sheep of Bethlehem were owned by the Sadducees, only these sheep were allowed to be sacrificed on Passover – for the purpose of filling their own bank accounts (this is why Jesus went postal on them for deceitfully using the system to get rich). Jesus and His disciples began the trip into Jerusalem on a donkey at Bethphage. Bethphage is to the east of Jerusalem, and the road travels over the Mount of Olives and He arrives in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday by riding through the Sheep Gate. See the symbolism and the purposeful work of God. Jesus, The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, born in Bethlehem where the lambs were raised and prepared for Passover sacrifice arrives on the day of sacrifice via the sheep gate. He was making a statement.