Lessons from Bethlehem

The cherished story of Christmas has more to offer than just yearly reminders of God’s love and the details of Jesus’ birth. As we wrap up our mini-series on Bible characters from the Christmas story, we reflect on the many lessons we, as believers, can apply to our personal walks of faith. 

The first people touched by His incarnation also stand as enduring examples of how we should react and engage with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—not just at our first amazed and wondering encounter, but throughout our Christian walk. What can Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wisemen teach us?

Surrender and Rejoice—Surrendering is an act of will and agreement—a deliberate acknowledgment of another’s power and right to direct your life and an agreement to follow. Mary not only surrendered to God’s Will, but also celebrated and magnified Him. She lived in a culture with severe consequences for unwed mothers, yet she expressed no hesitation or reservation, which brings us to another big point about Christian surrender: It requires trust. How trusting are we? Do we rest confidently knowing that God has everything under control? Do we run the other way, or comply half-heartedly? Like Mary, let’s praise and thank Him for His call on our lives and for the gift of His Son. 

Trust and Obey—Think of the surprises Joseph faced. First, he learned his betrothed was with child, and he was considering a quiet divorce. Then, he learned through divine revelation in a dream that she was carrying the Son of God, and he was to be the babe’s earthly father. What was his response? Did he whine, complain, or question? No. Joseph displayed instant obedience when he woke the next day. When something happens, does our response leave room for the will of God to be revealed? Do we carefully and calmly consider what to do before taking action? How quickly are we obedient once we clearly know the will of God?   

Seek and Find—The shepherds’ response that holy night is typical of how most people react. First, they experienced fear, then they discussed things, and finally, they hurried to check it out for themselves. They had been given a specific sign to look for, after all. But note in their recorded response that they didn’t question the validity of Jesus’ birth. They talked about the need to see for themselves “this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us,” and as Scripture records, they found Jesus exactly as described. (Luke 2:15-16). So, what about us? How quickly do we respond to the signs He provides in our lives? Do we get stuck in “discussing” the journey ahead, or do we have faith, make haste, and go?

Watch and Worship—The Christian life is a journey that includes watching, worshiping, and also working. Like the wisemen, we must actively seek Jesus. We must worship Him and give Him our best. And like wisemen, we also need to take action. They traveled from the east. They followed the star. They worshipped the King. And they responded to a warning in a dream. Remember, they were warned in a dream that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus. So, they left town another way to prevent Herod from learning from them where Jesus was located. What can we do each day to watch and worship? How far are we willing to go to serve? What can we do to defeat the evil of this world and help others to find Jesus?

The Lord gave us His greatest treasure when He sent His Son, the Word incarnate, to redeem us all. Jesus came humbly, in the form of a baby, and asked only of us to receive Him. This is simple yet so counter-cultural; it goes against our nature as humans. Instead of human beings, we seek to perform as human “doings.” We want to prove ourselves to God, and we’ll do anything to glorify us.

That’s not at all why Jesus came. He came to save us from ourselves—from this toxic, self-detrimental ideology that we alone can do all things. All Jesus wants from us is a response, which happens over and over and over again in the story of His birth. Mary surrenders. Joseph trusts. Shepherds find. Wisemen worship. Every aspect of this story is in response to the presence of Jesus. He is the all powerful, all capable one.

“Mary surrenders. Joseph trusts. Shepherds find. Wisemen worship. Every aspect of this story is in response to the presence of Jesus. He is the all powerful, all capable one.”

This Christmas, and every day, remember the King of kings came to save you from work, so you could commit yourself to love—His love. This is the truth of the Gospel. 

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift” —2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

Merry Christmas to all! Christ has come!

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