Christmas has become the product of an odd mixture of pagan ideas, superstition, fanciful legends, and plain ignorance. Add to that the commercialization of Christmas by marketers and the politicization of Christmas in the culture wars, and you’re left with one big mess. Let’s try to sort it out. The place to begin is in God’s Word, the Bible. Here we find not only the source of the original account of Christmas, but also God’s commentary on it. – John MacArthur, Belt of Truth (BOT1): The Truth of The Nativity
Driving home at night has a special intimacy as if God is somehow closer than at any other time. When you are driving home after a challenging Bible Study, you especially feel it. And tonight as headlights glowed in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t help but think that God thought of the smallest detail.
I am studying Jill Rhodes, Come and Behold Him: Fresh Glimpses into the Life of Christ. Through her words via cassette tapes in chapter one, I learned how men would wrap swaddling clothes several times around their waist before going on a long journey. Women didn’t travel when they were pregnant so those swaddling clothes were not because of coming upon an unexpected birth in the desert, but in case they should come across a dead body. They would use the swaddling clothes as burial clothing. Do you get where I am going?
Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
The more I study the birth of Christ the more in awe I stand at how God thinks of the smallest details, how symbolic He is in the Bible. Unrelated to this Bible Study, it caused me to recall another Bible Study where we studied the Nativity. Most Christians know the Nativity we display is not accurate.
For instance, the three wise men is said to not have arrived to see Jesus until Jesus was two years old. They presented Jesus three gifts. I never thought much of the gifts until their meaning became clear. Crossway.org sums it up:
Gold: It is easy to see why gold is an appropriate gift for Jesus Christ. Gold is the metal of kings. When gold was presented to Jesus, it acknowledged his right to rule. The wise men knew Jesus was the King of kings.
Incense: Incense was also a significant gift. It was used in the temple worship. It was mixed with the oil that was used to anoint the priests of Israel. It was part of the meal offerings that were offerings of thanksgiving and praise to God. In presenting this gift the wise men pointed to Christ as our great High Priest, the one whose whole life was acceptable and well pleasing to his Father.
Myrrh: Myrrh was used for embalming. By any human measure it would be odd, if not offensive, to present to the infant Christ a spice used for embalming. But it was not offensive in this case, nor was it odd. It was a gift of faith. We do not know precisely what the wise men may have known or guessed about Christ’s ministry, but we do know that the Old Testament again and again foretold his suffering.
In doing graphics for a pastor for the advent season, I read John Piper’s words how we have lost our awe for God. He said:
I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grownup in church and who can recite the great doctrines ofour faith in our sleep and who yawn through the ApostlesCreed—that among us something must be done to helpus once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, thewonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father fromall eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the veryimage of his person, through whom all things were created,upholding the universe by the word of his power.
I am reminded of the importance of Bible Study. When we think of how God is in the details, I can’t help but think that He is in every detail of my life no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. It’s in the small details like the swaddling clothes and the three wise men’s gifts that we discover this truth, how Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross in place of us so that we may have eternal life. A child was born, and I think of that Faith Hill song, “A Baby Changes Everything.”