Witnesses to a Divine Birth

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.”

Luke 2:8-9 NASB

The Shepherds

The social status of a Jewish shepherd during the time of Christ was as low as you could get. They were despised like tax-collectors and dung-sweepers. Although sheep-herding began as a noble occupation with the Patriarchs, the Israelites slowly changed into farmers and agriculturists. This began when Joseph and his brothers were reunited in Egypt, and Pharaoh invited them to relocate in Goshen. Joseph plainly informed his brothers, “…for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34 NASB).

But God chose people of the lowliest profession to have the greatest honor of the ages–to witness a supernatural birth announcement from heaven in the night sky.

And so the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.‘”

Luke 2:10-12 NASB

Can you imagine the amazement of the shepherds when the angel was suddenly joined in the night sky with “a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:13b-14 NASB).

A multitude of angel armies lit up the sky, and their praises must have resounded for miles. Afterward, they retreated into heaven, leaving the night sky black, but their glorious presence and message spurred the shepherds to quickly run to Bethlehem.

When they found Mary and Joseph, they looked at the Christ child and told them what the angels had said about him. Everyone was amazed at their words, and Mary especially treasured and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:20 NASB

The Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

Matthew 2:1-2 NASB

The three magi from the east were polar opposites to the shepherds. As educated astronomers who studied sacred writings and served in royal courts, they understood the sign in the heavens. These wise men followed the star, which led them to the house where Messiah was found, bearing gifts to honor and worship the new king. They represented non-Jewish nations paying homage to the Lord of lords.

And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Matthew 2:11 NASB

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

GOLD was not only a gift of great wealth, but it symbolized royalty, nobility, and great love. By bringing gold to lay at Jesus’s feet, they were acknowledging Him as King of the Jews. This provision supported Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt and later moved to Nazareth.

FRANKINCENSE was a valuable, fragrant ingredient for making holy incense to burn in the Temple. It was used for ceremonial worship and represented Christ’s divinity. The magi confirmed through this gift that Jesus was special–fully God and fully man.

MYRRH was an aromatic spice used for burial. It was also used to make a fragrant smoke, a rich perfume, and as medicine to treat wounds and skin inflammations. This gift represented Christ’s humanity and sacrificial death because He was sent from God to die for the sins of the world.

Come as you are to worship the King.

So the last shall be first, and the first, last.

Matthew 20:16 NASB

Is it any mistake that the shepherds were first in line to witness the miracle of Jesus’s birth? God chose the humble and lowly of this world to be first. In fact, Jesus bills Himself as the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23. Further, God tells us in Isaiah 66:2b, “But I will look to this one, at one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word” (NASB).

Today we have a personal invitation from God to come witness the miraculous birth of the Christ child. Whether we have great wealth to lay at His feet or have nothing, we can come as we are. He is offering a beautiful gift for each of us–the free gift of salvation.

Will you accept His gift?

Dear Father, thank you for sending Your Son to be born on the earth. We bow before you in worship and lay our hearts before You. We receive Your free gift of salvation, and we praise You for it. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Witnesses to a Divine Birth by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022, All rights reserved.

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus by Karen Jurgens

The Hanukkah celebration isn’t just for Jews. If we look closely, we’ll find Jesus Christ, both the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, at its very core.

First, some history…

The significance of Hanukkah is embedded in a miracle. The second Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greco-Seleucid Empire. The Jews expelled these pagans, after which the Jews purified the Temple. During this Feast of Dedication, eight menorah candles were lighted, one for each day. The flames required sacred olive oil, but there was only enough oil to last one day. In spite of the impossible circumstances, the flames miraculously burned all eight days.

Today, Jews celebrate this minor religious holiday not only to remember this miracle but also to commemorate the victory God gave to Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, in 139 B.C.

Jesus celebrated Hanukkah…

The gospel of John gives us the only account of Jesus during Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. In John 10, we find Jesus walking in the Temple along Solomon’s porch.

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’

John 10:24 NKJV

This group of unbelievers (much like a lynching mob) didn’t want the truth—they had already decided Jesus was a blasphemer, and they only wanted His words to legally condemn Him. But Jesus responded with a clever answer.

Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.’

John 10:25-30 NKJV

Then the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus, claiming their right to do so since He had made Himself equal with God, a sin in Jewish law punishable by death. But Jesus proved His deity another way.

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.’ 

John 10:37-38 NKJV

This mob refused to believe Jesus’s miraculous works, which proved His supernatural identity. Instead of waiting for them to cast their stones, Jesus slipped away and withdrew to the region of the Jordan.

But isn’t it ironic that just as the Maccabees had driven unbelievers out of the Jewish Temple, now unbelievers were driving out the Son of God from that very Temple?

Jesus’s true identity…

Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.

He [John] was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.’

‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

John 1:8-9; John 8:12; John 9:5 NKJV

What does Jesus, the Light of the world, have in common with this Festival of Lights, beginning at sundown on December 18th and concluding at nightfall on December 26th?

The symbol of lights comes from the lighted menorah candles, which burn for eight days and nights. As Hanukkah’s candles light Jewish homes, so Jesus lights the lives of believers.

God created our spirits with a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. When we’re born again, the war against unbelief is won, expelled from our hearts. Then our spirit’s “temple” is purified by the blood of the Lamb shed at the cross. The Holy Spirit fills our spiritual “menorah” with His sacred oil and ignites our hearts with the flame of belief. We shine with the eternal light of Jesus living within us, as a lighted lamp for the world to see.

The lamp of the body…

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.’

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Matthew 6:22; 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8 NKJV

Jesus is Messiah…

God provides several prototypes of the miraculous advent of Messiah in the Old Testament. Messianic Jewish believers will understand how Jesus shines through the eight candles of the Hanukkah miracle, but now it’s time that Christians also discover this truth. Judaism and Christianity fit together like a hand in a glove.

As we come into this season of Christmas, let’s remember that the light of God came into the world through the birth of His Son, Jesus. May we rejoice, as did the shepherds that Holy Night, in the salvation message the angels brought to earth, announcing that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!’

Luke 2:8-14 NKJV

Dear Father in heaven, May our hearts be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and may our eternal spiritual menorahs burn brightly. May all the world see the light of Jesus, our Messiah, shine through our lives. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2018 and 2022, All rights reserved.