The After Party: Part 2: The Breath-Taking Brightness
We're currently reflecting on the birth of the Christ in the aftermath of the Christmas period. As we recover from turkey comas and sprout overdoses let's have a fresh look at the story of Jesus coming into the world.
Below is the story we used as part of our Christmas service at the Rock. We told this version of the nativity story. I hope you enjoy.
The Visitors Hopeful Journey
It is always hard to know where to start a story, especially a story as important as this. People always say to start at the beginning but I’m not sure that’s the best place this time. Let’s start this story after the main event has actually happened and with some late to arrive visitors.
Once upon a time, about two thousand years ago to be exact, in a land far far away, about three thousand miles to be not particularly exact, lived a group of wise men. They spent their time looking at the stars and reading books. This group of men were especially interested in ancient legends. Their time was spent meeting together to read the prophets’ words in the hope they could make sense of them.
They read the words of a man called Isaiah who spoke about the chosen one of God coming as a little baby and being a descendant of the little boy, David, who beat Goliath and became the great king of Israel.
The wise men also read the words of a man called Micah who had a vision of the special one, the Christ, coming from the little town of Bethlehem.
While they studied these words they also watched the night skies. They believed the stars would point out important things which were happening and while they recorded the movements of the lights which shone through the night, one particular star grabbed their attention. It seemed brighter and newer than the rest. They realised that the time for the words of these ancient prophecies to come true was upon them. They gathered gifts of precious metals and beautiful perfumes and set off to the royal city of Bethlehem.
As they entered Bethlehem, the star they had been wondering about rested above a house. Making their way to the house they were full of excitement. The wise ones entered the house and saw a young mother holding a small child in her arms. The travellers started celebrating and singing with joy. They realised that the words of these ancient prophecies had come true. They knew God’s special one had arrived but they wanted to know more. The visitors realised they had only seen a tiny bit of the picture. It was as if a candle had shown them a teeny tiny bit of the story and they wanted to see the whole picture illuminated. So, the wise men from the east asked the baby’s parents, a young woman called Mary and a man called Joseph, a descendent of King David, to tell them all about what had happened.
The Angel’s Grand Announcement
Mary made the men feel at home and then started telling them the story. “This is going to sound very strange,” she said. “but bear with me..” She told her guests about how she had been at home one evening daydreaming about her fiancé, Joseph, and something quite unexpected awoke her from her daydream. An angel, called Gabriel, appeared in the room and started talking to her. Mary said “The angel told me that God had chosen me for something special. He could see that I was really scared because he told me not to be afraid but it’s pretty hard not to be afraid when an angel suddenly appears right next to you.”
Mary continued describing the angel’s arrival in her room. The young mother explained to the wise men that Gabriel told her that the Son of God would grow inside her tummy.
Joseph excitedly joined the conversation telling his guests that he and Mary weren’t married yet and weren’t ready to have a baby but that the angel had told Mary that the spirit of God would create the baby inside her. Joseph said to the wise men “We didn’t believe it was possible but the angel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant. The doctors had told Elizabeth she couldn’t have a baby but the angel said she could. It was amazing! We couldn’t believe it! The angel was telling us Elizabeth was pregnant AND that the King of Kings, the special one of God was going to be our baby.”
Mary smiled at Joseph and Joseph smiled back. Mary turned to her guests and said “and now I wasn’t as scared as when the angel arrived; so, I said to Gabriel “tell God, I say yes! I will be God’s servant and that if the baby is God’s will then I am excited to be part of His plan.”
The Cousin’s Overwhelming Joy
One of the wise men lent forward on his chair and asked a simple question, “So, er, was the angel right? Was your cousin going to have a baby?” Mary nodded slowly and the wise man’s eyes grew wider. “Tell me more” he said.
“After the angel had left me I decided I would have to go see if his message was true. I travelled to Elizabeth’s home and when I arrived I stuck my head in the door and said hello. She gave me the biggest smile. I was a bit confused,” said Mary. “I asked her why she was smiling but she just gave me a huge hug instead of answering my question.” Mary told the wise men everything Elizabeth said to her. Mary described to the visitors how the spirit of God had told Elizabeth that she, Mary, was pregnant with the Christ which the prophets had spoken of. Elizabeth just kept saying to Mary that she was so blessed. Elizabeth even said that her own baby started wiggling and jiggling and dancing about inside her as soon as Mary walked in her house. “Even my baby recognised that the Special One of God, the Christ, was close. You, my dear cousin, are the most blessed among all women.”
The wise men were captivated by the story of Elizabeth’s baby leaping about inside her. They knew that their reading of the ancient legends and the stars was correct. The little baby which lay before them really was the Messiah.
Mary carried on with her story of Elizabeth’s house. She looked a bit embarrassed as she continued the story to the wise men. “After Elizabeth had stopped talking to me, I just burst into song. I know it sounds silly but I was just so excited that I couldn’t help myself. I looked up to the heavens and sang about how amazing God is” said Mary.
The wise men asked if they could hear the song and Mary said that she remembered every single word she had sung. Mary’s visitors were transfixed as she opened her mouth and the song poured out. She sang about how her soul glorified God, how God was so much greater than her and how every generation would hear stories of how God had blessed her with this child. The song continued to speak of how the baby she held in her arms would be full of mercy, holiness, strength and how he would be the best news the world had ever heard.
The Baby’s Humble Birth
The wise men were fascinated by Mary’s story but they had a question. “We came here because the legends spoke of God’s special one being born here, in Bethlehem, but we can tell from your accent that you’re not from here. You sound like you’re from the north. Why are you here?”
Joseph joined in the conversation. “As you know, Caesar demanded a census to be taken and everyone had to travel back to their ancestor’s city to be counted. We had to travel back here to David’s city, Bethlehem, because I’m descended from the great king David.
Joseph continued telling the guests about their journey. “Travelling, as you can imagine, is difficult for a pregnant woman. We were hoping that we would get here and back to Nazareth before Mary gave birth but our baby decided it wanted to be born here! The census meant the town was full. There was no space for us where the guests normally stay so we had the baby here. When He was born we wrapped him in cloths and laid him in the manger over there.”
One of the wise men whispered something to another of his friends. “I don’t know” he replied. Mary asked “What’s wrong?” “Oh nothing’s wrong, my friend was just asking me a question but I didn’t know the answer” replied the wise man. “He was asking if I knew what you had named the baby. You haven’t told us yet.”
Mary kissed the forehead of the tiny child and spoke with a sense of joy in her voice “Jesus, his name is Jesus. An angel told Joseph we should call him that.”
“That’s a great name” said the wise man with a knowing smile. “I believe it means “God saves.””
The Saviour’s First Guests
“Has anyone else been to see him? Are we the first to meet God’s special one?” asked another of the wise men. Joseph laughed, “You would have had to get here really quick to be the first ones here. Let me tell you about our first guests. You think you were excited when you got here but our first visitors couldn’t stop singing praises to God when they left us. I’ve never seen a bunch of shepherds so happy!” “Your first guests were shepherds?” asked the wise men together. “Why weren’t they looking after their sheep?”
Mary continued the story, “Let me tell you the story they told us. The shepherds were up on the hillside looking after their sheep. They said they were watching the night sky while chatting away to keep each other awake when suddenly an angel appeared before them. They were petrified. You should have seen the look on their faces when they told us the story! Anyway, the angel said not to be afraid but that he had news full of great joy for all people, the saviour the prophets had spoken of had been born as a baby. The angel told them to come down here and to find us and see the baby with their own eyes. Then, and as if one angel wasn’t enough, the sky was filled with angels singing praises to God. You can maybe ignore one angel but when the sky is full of heavenly choirs you have to take notice.”
Joseph laughed again “When they got down here they were all sweating and gasping for breath. They had run the whole way. They were trying to catch their breath and tell us about the angels at the same time. It was very funny.”
Mary spoke up in a gentle voice “To tell you the truth it wasn’t funny. It was amazing. I was holding the saviour, the Christ, the promised one, the light of the world in my arms. To be honest there were days I doubted that all of this could be true but when they arrived and told me their story I knew that Jesus was God’s chosen one. My baby is destined for something very special.”
As the truth of who this baby was filled the room, it felt like a breath-taking brightness had illuminated their hearts. The wise men all rose from their seats and fell to their knees before the baby. They laid their gifts before him and they worshipped Jesus as the King of Kings.
Do you want to read a bit more of the story?
The Visitors’ Hopeful Journey
The references to the wise men looking at prophecies and coming to Bethlehem are from Matthew 2.
Isaiah spoke about the Christ coming as a baby and being from David’s lineage in Isaiah chapter 9.
Matthew 1 traces Jesus’ family tree back to David.
The ancient prophecy about Bethlehem can be read in Micah 5.
The Angel’s Grand Announcement
You can find the stories of the angel Gabriel and a terrified Mary in Luke 1.
The Cousin’s Overwhelming Joy
Elizabeth, Mary and an unborn child dancing can be read about in Luke 1.
The Baby’s Humble Birth
A description of the birth of Jesus can be found in Matthew 1 and Luke 2.
Jesus, or the Hebrew yeshua (עושי) is believed to come from the words YHWH (which is the Hebrew word for God) and Hosea (which is the Hebrew word for saving or rescuing or delivering.)
The Saviour’s First Guests
The angels and the shepherds can be found in Luke 2.
The wise men worshipping Jesus can be read in Matthew 2.
This blog post was brought to you by....Oli Higham
Oli Higham is part of the leadership team at the Rock Community Church. He finds it hard to sum himself up in a few sentences. However he loves Jesus and is also rather fond of his family, films, coffee, rugby, Arsenal FC, poetry, spray paint, beards, cooking and laughing.