Recognizing the Savior Early: A Christmas Reflection

The passages in the Bible about Jesus’ birth are so familiar, that often we take them for granted.  For example, look at these accounts of events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Luke 1:39-44 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

The babe here is John the Baptist, who will grow up to be a great prophet.  But even before he is born, he recognizes the unborn savior near him.

Luke 2:8-18 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold,an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
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, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Shepherds were not considered trustworthy in that culture, but here they are given the message from the angels that the Savior was born.  They follow the angels’ instructions and see the baby.

Luke 2:25-32 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law,  he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Here, an old man had been promised that he would see the Savior before he died, and he recognized the baby when he was 6 weeks old, and came to the Temple.
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Jesus was again very young, and had most likely not spoken a word.  This did not prevent the wise men from recognizing him as the future King.  They called him “King of the Jews”, but they obviously meant that he was to be their king too, or they would not have come from a far away country.

Most of my readers are Christians, and these passages are very familiar.  To a non-Christian reader, however, these passages show something unique about Jesus.

Nearly all famous religious leaders are recognized for what they said or did.  Mohamed, for example, attracted followers in his adult life.  So did  Buddha, Confucius, and Joseph Smith.  No one looked at these future religious teachers in their cradles, and predicted their future accomplishments.

With Jesus, it was different.  The Bible records that he was recognized as Savior before he was born, and he was recognized multiple times before he could speak, or do much of anything.  He was recognized by men and women, by angels, and even by a star.  The focus in the Bible begins with who he is, rather than what he did.  His words and actions are important, not in themselves, but because he is the Son of God, sent to save us from our sins.


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