Want to have a great Christmas experience? You know what I mean. Do you want to have that touched by the Holy Spirit, real meaning of Christmas, not the materialistic blather feeling? Do you want to experience a close-ness to God this Christmas that you have rarely felt?
Then instead of watching a football game or a sappy Santa movie, instead of watching Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Chevy Chase have a merry Christmas; print this teaching out and read it slowly to yourself and to those who mean the most to you. Even better, send it to your friends relatives, business associates and neighbors so that they can experience something more meaningful than a red-nosed Rudolph or Uncle Bob.
Send it to the skeptics and doubters of the Christmas story. Let the Holy Spirit move on them through the Word of God. This version of the Christmas story is rarely if ever reported in Church because it takes too much time. It can not be related in a twenty five minute oral marathon.
Would you be willing to invest as much time as it takes to read a good magazine article or a chapter from a fiction novel, to know something new about the entry into the world of God in the flesh? Would you be interested in reading a report that will send shivers down your spine and every word is God breathed? Would you like to know why the Angel of the Lord declared to the shepherd boy’s “do not be afraid for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people”?
If the answer is yes, then snuggle up next to the fire, read on and enjoy!
“There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest whose name was Zacharias, of the course of Abia and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.”
“And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (The first miracle of this report. Only the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit could have made this possible. They were made blameless by grace and mercy in God’s sight. Jesus was the only human to ever literally keep all of the commandments and ordinances of God.)
“AND THEY HAD NO CHILD, because that ELISABETH WAS BARREN and THEY WERE BOTH WELL STRICKEN IN YEARS.” (Please forgive the caps, but these facts are essential to understanding the amazing miracles that you are about to read of.)
Now by any means of interpretation, we know that Elisabeth and Zachariah were old and she was barren. It is important to know that the children of Israel considered anyone that was incapable of having children, punished by God and they were socially unacceptable. Even Elisabeth believed that God was punishing her by making her barren.
“And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.” (The priests would cast lots, roll the dice to see who would have the once in a lifetime opportunity to do the four phases of cleansing of the Holy of Holies, of which burning the incense was one. It cleansed the air.)
“And the whole multitude (all the people of the town) of the people were praying outside at the time of the burning of the incense.”
“And there appeared unto him and angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the Altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled and fear fell upon him.” (This is quite possibly the greatest understatement of all time. It is also miracle number two in the report.)
Let us take a moment to ponder the reason for Zaharias’ being troubled and fearful. Here for your reading pleasure is a description of the Angel of the Lord from one of the very few humans to ever have seen him, Daniel. In other word’s this is what Zach saw. Imagine yourself being in Zach’s place. Most of us would need to visit the laundry.
” Then I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of uphaz: His body also was like the beryl (aluminum oxide) and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and his voice of his words like the voice of a multitude (large crowd).”
“But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer has been heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John (Miracle number three…his prayer was heard and answered and the angel of the lord is there to deliver the news. Miracle number four…a barren old woman is now pregnant with a son).”
” And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Elijah was until the birth of John the Baptist the greatest of all prophets and the most powerful.)
Take a moment and allow your mind to visualize what is happening in this moment. The great Gabriel has come to this man who has been praying since his youth to have a son. The man’s wife is medically incapable of producing children. Zach and Liz have given up any hope of having children many years past. Now, Gabriel shows up and pronounces to Zach that not only will he have a son, but that the son will be the greatest man that Israel has known since Elijah the prophet.
ASTOUNDING UNBELIEF: ” And Zacharias said to the angel, Whereby shall I know this?
Zach is a high priest. The angel of the Lord is standing in front of him. The angel speaks a message to him from God. Zach asks the angel how he can know that the things that Gabriel speaks, will happen. Unbelievable unbelief!
This moment seems shocking on the face of it. Yet it is exactly what happened when Jesus came in to the earth. God came into the earth in the flesh, in the person of Jesus to deliver and guarantee His new covenant with us. He walked among His people and spoke. Yet His people did not accept Him or His new covenant and they are still doubting Him.
” And the angel said to him, I am Gabriel that stands in the presence of God; and am sent here to speak to you, and to show you these glad tidings. And behold, you shall be unable to speak until the day that these things shall be performed, because you believed not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
Now think about this for just a moment. Unbelief is the one unforgivable sin. Unbelief is the most powerful force known to man. God could not allow Zach to speak his unbelief into the life of John the Baptist even before he was born; because the eternal implications of unbelieving would be huge. John was a major part of God’s plan of salvation and Zach’s unbelief could have prevented his birth. So, God shut his unbelieving mouth until after John was born. Have you ever known a person whose negative and unbelieving mouth, make you wish that God would silence them?
Zach is in a real pickle here. The town folk are all outside the temple waiting for Zach to come and report to them the Word that God had for them. Unfortunately, Zach has his mouth taped shut.
” And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried (took so long) in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned to them. And remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.”
” And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived and hid herself five months saying, Thus, hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Elisabeth believed now that God had removed the curse from her, which allowed her to become pregnant and no longer be considered by people to be punished by God.
You may think that you know the next part of the report by heart. I am betting that there are some twists and turns that you may not be familiar with.
Read on, things are about to get very interesting:
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth. To a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgins name was Mary.”
“And the angel came in to her and said, Hail thou that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.”
“And when she saw him she was troubled at his saying and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”
“And the angle said to her, fear not, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you shall conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus.”
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of His father David.”
The angel is saying that Jesus shall be the king of the Jews as was his ancestor David.
“And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”
“Then Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”
Miracle number five: The immaculate conception.
Pay attention, it gets even more amazing!
“And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. FOR WITH GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.”
Check it out, the angel comes and tells her that she is about to give birth to the Son of God, even though she is a virgin. Not only that, but that Her old barren cousin Elisabeth is in her sixth month. Most women would be unconscious at this time. But the Holy Ghost has already come over her and strengthened her Spirit. All of this would be almost impossible for any human to believe. But read Mary’s reaction:
” And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel left her.”
What if we all made a decision to make Mary’s belief a model for our own? What would happen if we all made a decision to believe the Word of God without the shadow of a doubt? The answer is that we would see the same kind of miracles.
This part is really amazing:
“And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth.”
“And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, blessed are you amond women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, and why am I deserving that the mother of our Lord should come to me. For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Catch all of the miracles in that one paragraph. Miracle number six: When Elisabeth heard Mary’s voice the baby in her womb Leaped for joy. Miracle number seven: When the baby John jumped in his mothers womb, Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Miracle number eight: Elisabeth had no way of knowing that Mary was pregnant. She certainly was not showing, Mary had only been pregnant for a few days. Yet Elisabeth perceived by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that not only was Mary pregnant, but that she was pregnant with the Lord.
If you are a skeptic of the “Christmas Story”, ask yourself this, who could possibly have made up a report like this?
And Elisabeth continued, “BLESSED IS SHE THAT BELIEVED; FOR THERE SHALL BE A PERFORMANCE OF THOSE THINGS WHICH WERE TOLD HER FROM THE LORD.”
There is great power in these words. Because Mary believed, there was a performance of the things that were promised her by God. This is how strong the power of belief and unbelief is. Mary believed and became the Mother of Jesus. Zach almost unbelieved John out of the earth. I want Elisabeth’s words to be said of you and me. “Blessed is he/she who believed for there shall be a performance of the things that were promised them of God.” If you want to see biblical miracles like these, you must believe without doubt.
Speaking of Zach, he got his voice back on the eighth day of John’s life when he presented him for circumcision. Zach’s friends and family wanted him to name John in the tradition of the Jews, a family name. Zach remembered that the angel had told him to name the son John. He wrote on a tablet that the boy would be named John in obedience to God, and his voice returned immediately. Zach had finally believed God, but only after he had seen the miracles with his own eyes.
Jesus taught us about this as He spoke to his disciple Thomas…
“Thomas, because you have seen me, you believe: blessed are those that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Do you believe what you see, or do you see what you believe?
If you wish to be blessed, make a decision to believe the promises of God beyond the shadow of a doubt, regardless of what you see.
The rest of the story is familiar to us because it is read every year at this time in church.
” And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.”
“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
“And so it was that , while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Miracle number nine: Jesus is born.
” 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 they were sore afraid.”
Miracle number ten: The angel of the Lord appears to the Shepherds.
Remember Daniel’s description of the Angel of the Lord? These shepherds had never seen television, movies, holograms, or heard stereophonic sound.)
“And the angel said to them, fear not,(too late, already laundry time) 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 Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You 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 Do, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Miracle number eleven: The heavenly host joined the Angel of the Lord to make the pronouncement that God had come into the earth to fulfill the law for the Jews and to give both Jews and Gentiles the opportunity to become the sons and daughters of God by believing in Jesus. No longer would man’s relationship with God be based on their performance. Now grace had replaced works and God at this very moment in history proclaims to all the world that He is at peace with all mankind forever.
“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 to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
At that time it was a crime punishable by beating or death to leave a flock for any reason. Shepherds were responsible for protecting their flocks with their lives if necessary, from thieves, wild animals or any other attacker. Yet, these men chose to believe the angels beyond the shadow of a doubt and they wanted to see the savior so much, that they were willing to take the risk.
” And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made know abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.”
On the eighth day of Jesus life, as was the custom, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple to be named and circumcised.
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”
“And it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by (was lead of) the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after what was the custom of the law. Then he took Jesus up in his arms, and blessed Him and said, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word: For my eyes have seen your salvation.”
Miracle number twelve: The Holy Ghost promises Simeon that he will not die until he has seen the Christ. Then the Holy Ghost leads Simeon to the temple at the exact moment that Joseph and Mary were at the temple with Jesus. Jerusalem was a large city and there were many boys and their parents at the temple that day. Yet the Holy Ghost led Simeon there at the exact right moment. Some people believe that the Holy Ghost does not give us precise directions. They are wrong.
Simeon believed the Holy Ghost and lived to see his savior.
The Christmas report is all about decisions to believe or not to believe and the consequences of those decisions. What do you believe? This entire teaching is from the first two chapters of the book of Luke.
Have a very Mary Christmas…
I pray that you have been blessed by this teaching. If you have been blessed, please pass it to another who will be blessed.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O.BOX 669153 Marietta, Ga 30066