Today, we light the Green, Black, Blue and Gold Candles. The Green Candle represents life and all that Father God created in Christ, Good and Whole. The Black Candle represents the Evil and Corruption of Sin that entered our World through our rebellion. The Blue candle represents the Hope that comes from the Promises of a future Savior and King. The Gold candle represents the birth of the long expected King and Savior.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2:2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 2:5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
After all the buildup and anticipation, the actual birth of Jesus – as it is recorded in the Gospels – is anticlimactic. Mark and John give us no details about Jesus’ birth. Only Matthew and Luke give us any detail, and they focus more on the events leading up to and surrounding His birth, than the actual birth itself.
Around the time that Jesus was born, an inscription was placed in a market place in a city of the Roman Empire:
“…since providence, which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has set it in most perfect order by giving [HIM] to us, filling [HIM] with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, sending [HIM] as a savior both for us and for those who come after us, that he might end war and arrange all things and since he, by his appearance, excelling even our own anticipation of the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) surpassing all previous benefactors and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what [HIM] has done, and since the birthday of the god, was the beginning for the world and for the GOOD NEWS to men that came by way of him…”
This inscription celebrates the birthday of a very significant man – “the birthday of the god” as it says. This man has been sent as savior to the world. He will end war – bring peace – and arrange all things to bring order. His works would be so great, there could be no hope of anyone greater coming after him. His birthday is so significant, calendars would have to be re-written so that Year 1 would be the year of his birth.
Sounds very familiar.
This sounds like a description of Jesus.
But it is not.
This inscription was written in honor of Caesar Augustus – Gaius Octavius – the first Roman Emperor. His rule had ushered in a golden age for the Roman Empire. This was the king of kings in that time period. No one was more powerful than he. So it is not without its irony that this same Caesar Augustus sets events in motion for the entrance of THE King of kings. The Story begins, in Luke 2, with Augustus issuing a registration decree for his entire empire, and this act sends Joseph and Mary, heavy with child, to the town of Bethlehem, the city of David, their family’s hometown.
The story of Jesus’ birth is an unexpected one. He is the Son of God. He is the fulfillment of every promise, every covenant, every prophecy given by the Lord. And yet…
On the day Jesus was born, there was no fanfare or celebration. His birth almost went unnoticed. Instead, Mary and Joseph left the family and friends who might have celebrated a coming birth, and made their way to a town 70 miles away. Did Mary ride a donkey on their 5-day journey? Did she walk? Both would have been difficult for a woman in her condition. It seems certain she made each weary step thinking about rest and comfort at the journey’s end.
But we all know the story. As Joseph and Mary turned onto the streets of Bethlehem, no comfort awaited the pair. Weary himself, Joseph went to door after door. But there was no room for them. They were forced to take shelter where they could – with animals in some form of stable. And there, alone, without even the aid of another woman to act as midwife, Mary gave birth. God became Man, and was wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough – for animals.
That first Christmas, nothing was as it seemed. A Great King was born, in the most incredible and revolutionary event to ever happen in human history. And He came… like a whisper. It is our first inkling that this Immanuel, this “God with us,” would be nothing like we were expecting.
But EVERYTHING that we needed.
God is with us!