The Christmas story is so simple, and yet it is so profound. The Son of God, one of the three persons in the triune Godhead, came to earth for the ultimate destiny of the cross on which He died for the sins of mankind.
And when you look at the events surrounding the Christmas story, you see an incredible picture of the events surrounding the cross and resurrection. As we take a look at these, it is almost breathtaking, and I hope it will bring a deeper, richer meaning to your Christmas.
At Jesus’ birth, a decree from a Rome (Caesar Augustus’ command for a census) is what sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, setting in motion then events of His birth (Luke:1-6). Likewise, it was a decree from Rome (Governor Pontius Pilate’s execution approval) that set in motion Jesus’s crucifixion (Luke 23:22-25).
Many scholars believe that Jesus was born in a cave (not a wooden barn) and laid in a manger, which would have been carved out of the stone walls in the cave. When He was taken off the cross, Jesus was laid in a tomb that was a cave cut out of a rock hill (Luke 23:53). So He was laid in a rock bed at both His birth and His death. Additionally, these two caves were “borrowed” from others (the cave stall certainly wasn’t theirs, as they were from Nazareth and Mary gave birth in Bethlehem; and the tomb was borrowed, Matthew 27:59).
When He was born, angels announced His birth to lowly shepherds (Luke 2:8-12). When Jesus rose from the dead, angels announced His resurrection to “lowly” women, who, in ancient culture, were considered second class (Matthew 28:1-6).
The message of the angels at both His birth and His resurrection started out the same: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10, Matthew 28:5).
At His birth Jesus was wrapped in cloth, which was cut into strips and tightly wrapped around Him, following the custom of the day (Luke 2:6-7). At His death, Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth, which was the burial custom of the day (John 19:40). Additionally, the strips of cloth were a sign to the shepherds of the Savior’s birth (Luke 2:12). Likewise, the empty strips of cloth were a sign to Peter and John that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:1-9)
After Jesus was born, He would have been washed in order to be cleansed of the blood and other body fluids from birth (as we do with newborns today). When He was taken off the cross, in order to follow usual burial customs of the day, His body was washed in order to be cleansed of the blood that He shed and the other fluids He had been subject to (His own sweat and spit from those who mocked Him).
After the shepherds had seen the newborn Savior they ran to tell everyone in the town (Luke 2:17). After the women had seen the empty tomb of the risen Savior they ran to tell the rest of the disciples (Matthew 28:8).
When the Magi came to see Jesus (although they came around two years later they are usually included in our modern Christmas scenes) one of the gifts they brought was myrrh, which was a spice used in burial (Matthew 2:11). When Jesus was wrapped in His burial cloths after his death, He was buried with the spices aloe and myrrh (burial customs included putting spices in the cloth strips that the deceased was wrapped in; John 19:38-39).
And finally, after the days of purification were complete (Leviticus 12:1-4 states that a mother had to wait 40 days after giving birth to a son before entering the temple to offer sacrifices for her purification) Jesus was brought to the temple to be presented to God (Luke 2:22-23). Likewise, 40 days after his resurrection, He ascended into Heaven to be “presented” back to His Father (Acts 1:1-11).
Do you see the incredible similarities in the events of the birth and death of Jesus? Are these coincidences? I don’t believe so. Jesus came to die on the cross, and His whole earthly life was lived for this ultimate goal. And His coming, His death and His resurrection were for you and me. How awesome is that?
This Christmas celebrate our wonderful Messiah. As you look at your nativity scenes, don’t just see the baby and the manger, let the scene bring you to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and let this bring a fresh, new perspective as you worship Him and celebrate His birth.
Merry Christmas, my friends!
Frank Nolton is a pastor at New Hope Community Church