The Jews of ancient Israel “knew not the time of their visitation” when their Messiah came to them the first time. Do we risk making the same mistake at the time of Jesus’ Second Coming?
Note: This article is by Angel J. Rodriguez, Senior Pastor of Houston Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, is a good biblical recount of the birth of our Savior. It contains some sobering insights we all need to be mindful of as we expectantly prepare for Jesus’ triumphant return.
It is interesting to note that out of all the people that God decided to reveal Himself to directly, it was the shepherds on the eve of the birth of His Son Jesus. The angels did not present themselves to the religious leaders. The angels did not present themselves to Herod. In stead they presented themselves to those who were considered part of the lowest class in society. Shepherds! Even the Egyptians in the time of Joseph did not think much of shepherds. Yet, it was this simple group that God the Father made it known to that in the town of Bethlehem a child was born who would save the world. Why? They were open to receive the good news.
Have you ever noticed that the majority of people in our congregations across America, and other parts of the world are from the lower and middle classes of society? The same was true in the time of Jesus. The majority of those who came to hear the gospel were from the lower and middle classes of society. The Father sent His angels to proclaim the good news to the shepherds. He gave the news to those who would not only hear the good tidings, but act upon the message.
“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. 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.” (Luke 2:8-16)
The angels gave a sign to the shepherds that the child would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. It was the custom of the day that when a new lamb was born that was perfect and without blemish, the lamb was wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger to signify that it was set apart to be a sacrificial lamb for the temple service. The sign that the angel gave to the shepherds was clearly understood by them: this child is to be the Savior, the Lamb of God, who would one day be sacrificed to set men free.
God in His infinite Love sends the child Jesus also to Jerusalem, as was the custom for the first born. “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)
One would think that after the news from the shepherds a delegation would have been sent to Bethlehem to investigate the story, but that was not the case. One would think that after the witness in the temple at Jerusalem by Simeon and Anna the prophetess that a delegation would be sent to investigate the events, but that also was not the case. Finally God sent outsiders, Gentiles, Magi’s, to Jerusalem because they had seen the star of the new born Savior.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:1-5).
You would think finally the religious leaders would now send a delegation to investigate whether the child born in Bethlehem is their Messiah. But again, this was not the case.“Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:7-12)
The story of the birth of Jesus is a fantastic one, and at the same time a tragic one. The very nation that should have been ready for the greatest event in history missed the entire experience. What about us today? Is there an event that God has predicted and warned us would happen in our generation? Will we be ready like the shepherds, or will we like the religious leaders who ignored the events of their day?
Today, our generation is in a similar situation as those in the time of Christ. We are told that the Messiah is coming again. But most of the world, and even many Christians today are not ready for His arrival. History seems that it will repeat itself. Look how the world has changed the meaning of Christmas and commercialized it. Look how the importance of Christmas has been changed into toys and tinsel. The same is happening to the message of His Second Coming. So the question I have for you on Christmas day is simple. How are you today? Christmas is a reminder of God’s plan of salvation for the world. It reminds us of the story of His birth, His death, His resurrection, and His coming back to take us home. My recommendation is that we become like the shepherds. They were open to receive the good news of the Messiah. They were ready to search and find Him, and they were eager to share the good news with others.
Here are some words of insight. “The priests and elders of Jerusalem were not as ignorant concerning the birth of Christ as they pretended. The report of the angels’ visit to the shepherds had been brought to Jerusalem, but the rabbis had treated it as unworthy of their notice. They themselves might have found Jesus, and might have been ready to lead the magi to His birthplace; but instead of this, the wise men came to call their attention to the birth of the Messiah. ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews?’ they said; ‘or we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him’.”(Ellen G. White – Pacific Press Pub. Association – 1940 – p.62)
“At the birth of Jesus, Satan knew that One had come with a divine commission to dispute his dominion. He trembled at the angel’s message attesting the authority of the newborn King. Satan well knew the position that Christ had held in heaven as the Beloved of the Father. That the Son of God should come to this earth as a man filled him with amazement and with apprehension. He could not fathom the mystery of this great sacrifice. His selfish soul could not understand such love for the deceived race. The glory and peace of heaven, and the joy of communion with God, were but dimly comprehended by men; but they were well known to Lucifer, the covering cherub. Since he had lost heaven, he was determined to find revenge by causing others to share his fall. This he would do by causing them to undervalue heavenly things, and to set the heart upon things of earth.” (Ellen G. White – Pacific Press Pub. Association – 1940 – p.115)
Angel J. Rodriguez, Senior Pastor Houston Central Seventh-day Adventist Church