“Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Michah 5:2).
All history was moving towards this night, and here we find the most important fulfilment of any Old Testament prophecy. Ground Zero would be a little village in Israel called Bethlehem, and so the anticipation of the ages was about to be manifested as Joseph and Mary entered it. The angels watched from Heaven as they waited to announce that the Light of the World was born.
Miracle 1 – Christ’s humble birth
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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” (Luke 2:1-7).
He came from His glorious throne in Heaven to a smelly stable. As King, He does not arrive with trumpets and horses, but through the womb of Mary. This is truly a riches to rags story. This tiny baby owned the world, for it was made by Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him” (John 1:10). This infant was the Saviour of all men. How sad it is then that the world would reject Him! But thank God that some would recognise the miracle of this night and receive Him as Lord. “And the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:10-12).
Miracle 2: The heavenly host
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14).
Ever since the fall of man, the angels had been interacting with man in preparation for this night. As the “fulness of the time” (Galatians 4:4) approached Gabriel was sent to Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah to tell them about the coming miracle of the ages. It was the angels that proclaimed the Saviour’s birth to the shepherds on the Judean hillside, the very place were David was anointed as king. They sang of the miracle of this night, and that first carol service was a night to remember.
Miracle 3: Moving the hearts of men
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:15-20).
What a coincidence that the Roman Emperor decided to conduct a census at this time! Actually, it was not! God had moved the hearts and minds of men so that they would fit in with His plans. The emperor’s idea was really the Lord’s. Unbeknown to Caesar Augustus, with all his hatred of the Jewish religion, his decree paved the way for Israel’s Messiah to be born exactly where Micah the prophet said He would be. On this night shepherds became evangelists, Zoroastrians started their long march towards Bethlehem guided by a special star (Matthew 2). The stage was set for the world to know that God was with man. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). The miracle of this night would be remembered every year by the world, but every day by the saved.
The birth of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle of all, and the effects of it will last throughout eternity. Both shepherds and wise men came to honour and worship, and we trust that they were soundly saved from their old ways through their encounter with Him. Maybe we have lost sight of the miracle because of the presents, decorations and feasting. That miracle still stands firm for all who will receive Him as their Lord and Saviour. Praise God for the miracle of salvation!