Baby Jesus circumcised – prophets recognize him as the Messiah

33858610_sThe Christ Child was presented in the temple in Jerusalem when he was eight days old. He was circumcised and given the name Jesus. Two turtle doves were offered for a sacrifice for his purification. You can read about this in Luke 2:21-24.

We learn from the sacrifice of two doves that Mary and Joseph were poor. Had they been wealthy they would have sacrificed a lamb.

Two prophets recognized baby Jesus as the Christ while they were in the temple. One of them was Simeon, a righteous and devout man. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the promised Messiah.

You can read about Simeon in Luke 2:25-35. Simeon took baby Jesus in his arms and praised God. He told them that many people would love Jesus while many others would oppose him. And he told Mary that a sword would pierce her very soul.

The prophet Anna was a very old widow whose husband had died only seven years after they were married. From the time he died, she stayed in the temple day and night fasting and praying. She came along as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph; then she too began praising God and telling everyone about baby Jesus. You can read about Anna in Luke 2:36-38.

These prophecies must have been very encouraging to Mary and Joseph after what they had been through so far. God’s hand was there to reassure them that his promises would come to pass.

(Note: The wise men are still following the star to Bethlehem)

This passage was omitted from the children’s book, The First Christmas, by Janice D. Green, illustrated by Violet Vandor. Front cover RGB (300)

Wise men discover star

The First Christmas RGB26Wise men from a distant country from the east saw a bright star in the heavens and believed it meant the new king of the Jews was born. Read about it for yourself in Matthew 2:1-2.

Who were these wise men and where did they come from? The Bible only tells us they came from eastern lands. Many scholars speculate that they may have come from the country of Babylon, the country where the Jewish people lived in captivity for 70 years. Their knowledge of the promised Messiah may have been passed down from the time of their captivity in Babylon more than 500 years before the birth of Christ. The Israelite prophet Daniel, who had been made head of the royal wise men in Babylon, often wrote about the promised Messiah.

Several hundred miles of the Arabian Desert extends between Bethlehem and Babylon and the other countries east of the Israelite lands. When these wise men started out on their trip they knew they had to prepare for many months of travel. They probably followed the trade routes that went around the northern edge of the desert.

 

Written for younger children: The First Christmas, by Janice D. Green, illustrated by Violet Vandor. Front cover RGB (300)

Angel appears to shepherds; Shepherds find baby Jesus

The First Christmas RGB22On the night Jesus was born God sent an angel to the shepherds in the fields. You can read about it for yourself in Luke 2:8-20. The angel told them that the Messiah, the Savior of the world had come to earth.

Why did God choose shepherds to hear this message? In Jesus’ time, most people thought shepherds were among the least important people. It was a dirty job for the youngest son. Shepherds were not allowed to appear as witnesses in court because their testimony was not seen as believable. But in God’s unique wisdom he chose the shepherds to be the first people to hear about the Messiah’s birth. It brings to my mind the Scripture verse that says “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” See Matthew 20:16. God values the lives of all people, not just the privileged few who seem to be in charge of everything.

The mighty angel frightened the shepherds as it glowed with God’s glory. But the angel calmed their fears and delivered a message that boggled their minds. Read Luke 2:8-20 again. What was the message? Good news! Great joy! The Savior – the Messiah had been born! And where would they find the baby? In a manger in Bethlehem!

Shepherds may not know everything, but they would know where to look for baby Jesus. They would know where the cattle and donkeys were kept in the village of Bethlehem. But before they had time to think about that the sky filled up with legions of angels all praising God together saying “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14 NLT) And then the angels returned to heaven.

Can you imagine the shepherds’ astonishment? The village people wouldn’t bother to make conversation with them, but God sent his angels to give them this amazing message! In no time they were hurrying to Bethlehem to look for the baby Jesus, and they found him in a manger, just as the angel said.

The First Christmas RGB24Can you imagine what was going through the minds of the Shepherds as they peeked into the manger? The grubby stable wouldn’t likely bother them much, but to get close to a baby… and not just any baby… this baby was God Himself!

After the shepherds left the manger they told everyone they could about the wondrous things they had seen and heard. We are left to wonder whether the village people believed the shepherds or not as the Bible doesn’t say. Then the shepherds returned to their fields to care for their flocks.

 

For younger children The First Christmas, by Janice D. Green, illustrated by Violet Vandor. Front cover RGB (300)