No. 19 - 18th December 2016

I think many people assume that Christianity all started that first Christmas day when the Christ child was born and laid in a manger in Bethlehem. But the story goes back much further than that. All through the Old Testament God kept pointing forward to a day when he would send his Messiah into the world to restore the relationship between himself and the human race. The plan was to send his son to become a human being, to experience everything that we humans experience, and then to be put to death as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Well, first that meant entering a female, human body, and going through the whole messy process of being born and raised in a normal family, and doing all the things that any young person might do. The woman God chose for the task of bringing up the child Jesus, was going to have to be a very special woman indeed. And the one he chose was a young girl called Mary. God must have thought a great deal of Mary to entrust his son into her keeping.

At the time, she was already betrothed to a man called Joseph. It’s sort of like being engaged, but more binding than that. You needed a divorce to get out of it. So when Mary came to her fiancé and told him that God had made her pregnant, Joseph was rather sceptical. But being a good man, he decided to divorce her quietly and not humiliate her in public. However, that night, he dreamt that an angel appeared to him and told him “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

As I said, this didn’t just start in Bethlehem. It was all part of a plan. Not just the birth, but the life, the death and the resurrection of that same Jesus was planned from the beginning. Mary was part of the plan and her willingness to obey, allowed God to work out the most audacious plan in history. Nothing less than the offer of total forgiveness to the whole of humanity, past, present and future. All wrapped up in that tiny little baby in a manger. No wonder the angels got excited.

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