From Bethlehem, we look back – and we look forward.

If we are to come to a true understanding of the story of Jesus Christ, we must not begin by opening our Bibles at the beginning of the New Testament – Matthew 1:1. We must go back into the Old Testament. We must seek to understand what the prophets said, as they looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
A true understanding of the story of Jesus Christ will not leave us in the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We need to move beyond the story of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, led on to a deeper understanding of all that Jesus came to do for us.
From Bethlehem, then, we look back to learn from the prophets and we look forward to learn from the rest of the New Testament story. With great prophetic insight, Isaiah spoke of the coming Christ. He speaks of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. From Isaiah, we learn of who Jesus was, what He did and what was done to Him. When we come to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the birth of Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7), we may well come with the question, “Who was Jesus?” When we come to study the life of a historical character, we ask our questions in the past tense: Who was Julius Caesar? Who was William Shakespeare? Who was Robert Burns? When, however, we learn more about Jesus, we discover that He is more than a figure from the past. He is the risen Christ. He is the living Lord.
As we learn of Jesus’ mighty resurrection from the dead, we come to think of Him in a different way. He is different from other characters from the past. We no longer ask the question, “Who was Jesus?” We ask, “Who is Jesus? In Isaiah 9:6, we have a tremendous description of Jesus Christ – “His Name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” If, after reading this amazing description of Jesus Christ, we are still tempted to think of Him as no more than a figure from the past, we must go on to read the first few words of Isaiah 9:7 – “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.”
Jesus Christ is alive today. He is with us now. He wants to draw out, from our hearts, the confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” He wants to give us the peace which comes from knowing that our sins have been forgiven. He wants to give us the hope which comes from receiving the gift of eternal life. He wants to be our Friend, leading us ever more deeply into a closer friendship with Him.What will be your response to Jesus Christ? He stands among us, calling for the response of faith?
As we look to the words of Isaiah 61:1-3, words which Jesus Himself used to describe His ministry, we discover that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, began His ministry with a profound awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit in His life: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me” (Isaiah 61:1). When we ask the question, “What did Jesus do while He was on earth?”, we find a helpful summary in these verses. Without looking at each phrase in detail, we might draw special attention to these phrases: Jesus came “to bring good tidings”, “to give … the oil of gladness” and “the mantle of praise” (Isaiah 61:1, 3).
Jesus came “to bring Good News.” This is the message which was brought by the angels to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10-11). This is the message which Jesus brought to men and women during His earthly ministry. this is the message which He brings to us today. Have you received the Good News of Christ? Have you learned to rejoice in the Lord? Are you learning to praise the Lord? Let the Good News of Christ lead you to praise Him with joy, giving thanks to God for Jesus, your Saviour and Lord.
There’s a Christmas song which contains the words. “Man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.” If, however, we are to have a true understanding of the way to eternal life, we must move beyond Christmas Day to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and we must move on from there to the day concerning which the hymnwriter speaks, ” O happy day! that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God! O happy day! O happy day! when Jesus washed my sins away.” The Gospel speaks not only of the Babe of Bethlehem. It speaks also of the Christ of Calvary and the risen Lord. When the Gospel speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection, it does not suggest that these events carry with them an automatic guarantee of eternal life. The Gospel draws our attention to the Christ who was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men”, after which He was raised from the dead by God (Acts 2:23-24). The Gospel does not, however, tell us only about what was done to Jesus – He was crucified by men and raised by God. It also sets before us the question: What will you do to Jesus? Will you receive Him? Or will you reject Him? “Joy to the world; the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.” “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus! There is room in my heart for Thee.” Is there room in you heart for Jesus?

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