A Journalist’s View of the First Christmas

manger scene_journalist view

Having earned a degree in journalism, I learned that the very basics of interviewing someone or doing any research for a news story consists of the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. An H is added, as well: How.

If a journalist were to write an account of the first Christmas, this technique would help provide a complete record of the occasion. Not only that, we can also discover how the scene that took place at that time played a pivotal role in our own faith and salvation.

Let’s use the five W’s and one H to answer some very important and timely questions many have asked for hundreds of years since that blessed event.

WHO WAS BORN?

If you would have asked the young virgin, Mary, she would have said, The angel told me, ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High…’” (Luke 1:31-32a, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate him as both the Son of God (“the Son of the Most High”) and Son of Man (via Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a son…”) Thus, Jesus is both divine (“of God”) and human (“of man”). (cp., Matthew 16:13-17).

Joseph, to whom Mary was engaged and the one who became Jesus’ foster father, would also agree that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of man. If you were a journalist, and asked Joseph his account of what happened when he learned about Mary’s pregnancy, he would have testified, “An angel of the Lord came to me in the night and said that my fianceé would ‘give birth’ to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus….” (Matthew 1:18-25). He would have also disclosed that, according to the angel, the child Mary was carrying was conceived “of the Holy Spirit,” proving the divinity of Jesus. Joseph knew he wasn’t the biological father of Jesus but that Almighty God is Jesus’ true Father (Luke 2:49). And as Jesus’ foster father, Joseph saw to it that the child was raised in accordance with the Jewish law and the prophets.

Both Mary and Joseph were well aware that the Son to be born was destined as God’s Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One of God (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31-33). God declared Jesus to be “my beloved Son with whom I am well-peased” no less than two times: at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) and his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). Jesus affirmed his Sonship and Messiahship when he commended Simon Peter for making his confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as it was divinely revealed to him by Jesus’ Father, (Matthew 16:13-20).

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE TIME OF HIS BIRTH?

A journalist investigating the birth of Christ would have found the whole scene extraordinary—almost Hollywood-like: He was born in a cow-stall; surrounded by animals in an unsanitary environment; heralded by a chorus of heavenly angels; praised and adored by God-fearing simple folks nearby, the shepherds; and, while still only a babe under two years of age, honored by distinguished men from the East who worshipped him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And to add to the drama, a star which led these distinguished men (a.k.a. “wise men”) to the child, shined down upon the place where the child could be found.

You would think that such a grand and unprecedented event would be broadcast for all the world to see. But a journalist would have discovered the irony of it all is that only a few select persons were aware of what was happening at the time. There were no great crowds of people making a mad rush to the manger to get their first glimpse of that miracle baby boy. It didn’t even make the evening news! At the time Mary gave birth to Jesus, it was only revealed to some shepherds nearby. As was pointed out, the wise men didn’t arrive until months later when the family was living in a house (Matthew 2:11).

The subtlety and secrecy of his birth would have revealed that Jesus’ birth was sacred and special since only a few were privy to it. Had there been a fanfare in which masses of people would have known what happened at and after his birth, chances are history would have probably turned out much differently. Thankfully, God was in control of the whole scene. But try to imagine this scenario…

For example, imagine the blessed event in a modern context: Some investigative reporter hack working for Herod’s government seeking to win a Pulitzer Prize for himself tweets the news (accidentally leaked out by one of the shepherds) that the new-born king of the Jews was identified as Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph. Then, the reporter learns from the neighbors that Joseph and his family were seen suddenly leaving their house in the middle of the night, heading toward the direction of Egypt. No doubt Herod would have sent some assassins there to find out where he was and murder the child along with Joseph and Mary.

Of course, God DID intervene to prevent such a horrible thing from happening. But, no doubt, there would still be some reporters today who would vainly attempt to reveal the news of his birth as well as the escape to Egypt if they could get by with it and make it widely known—obviously, with disastrous results. Secrecy was of vital importance for Jesus to fulfill his prophetic and ministerial role (Matthew 2:15).

WHERE WAS HE BORN?

Even the place where Jesus was born wasn’t considered significant . It didn’t hold any prestige in the eyes of the world. Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth, was an obscure village.

A journalist would have found the little town of Bethlehem a quiet place yet was held in high esteem according to prophetic writing. Had a reporter interviewed Matthew, for example, he or she would discover that Micah the prophet foretold that Bethlehem of Judea would be the birthplace of the “Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel,”  (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 5:2) according to God, himself, and this was fulfilled at Christ’s birth.

The role that the seemingly insignificant town of Bethlehem would play concerning the birth of Jesus turned out to be “wisdom with God but foolishness to the world,” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25). As one writer comments,

The town of Bethlehem was located approximately five miles southwest of Jerusalem. It was a small town in the hill country of Judea, and was generally considered to be of little importance except for two matters of note. Bethlehem could lay claim to be “the town of David,” because it was the hometown of the shepherd boy who became king (1 Samuel 16:1). And it was, according to Old Testament prophecy, the future birthplace of the Messiah and thus destined one day for prominence.” (Johnny Pressley, NIV Standard Lesson Commentary 1999).

WHEN DID THE EVENT TAKE PLACE?

Just as God’s choice of Bethlehem was for a special purpose in terms of history and prophecy, his sense of timing as to when Jesus was born is impeccable. Here again, however, is a mystery that has perplexed many for centuries.

Not even the Gospels tell us for sure the exact date in which Jesus’ birthday actually took place. Most scholars agree it was on really on December 25th, or any other traditional dates cultures may celebrate it. Some try to figure out his birth date according to the star that appeared over Bethlehem. But, so far, scientific study is only filled with conjecture and nothing concrete to go on.

Others try to figure out the time of Jesus’ birth according to the time Herod ruled Judea. But no one can put a finger on the specific day or month. Perhaps someday archeology will turn something up. So far, however, we’re still in the dark on this matter.

This journalist submits that it probably doesn’t really matter if we know exactly when Jesus was born. We only need to know that God knows according to the way he planned it from the beginning of time (1 Peter 1:20). Since Jesus was born “when the time had fully come” as Paul stated, (Galatians 4:4), then this is what REALLY counts. His birth was in God’s time.

Back during the turbulent sixties when the news reports were about assassinations, race riots, peace rallies, and violent protests against the Vietnam as well as all-around discontent, a student friend of mine remarked to me with skepticism, “Jesus was born at the wrong time. He should’ve been born now so that he could have done something the problems we’ve having.”

My response to him was, “John, the Lord had a reason for Jesus to be born when he was. God says Jesus will come again and put an end to all the wrongs taking place today.” He looked at me as though I was making something up. If only his mind would have been opened to God’s sense of timing instead of his own, (cp., Acts 1:6-7).

WHY WAS HE BORN?

In a news report on the birth of Christ, you’d probably find that many do not seem to understand WHY Jesus was born in the first place. The Apostle Paul could accurately answer that question. He’d say that Jesus was born, “in order that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons,” (Galatians 4:5). He would go on to say that since believers are sons (and, daughters, Galatians 3:26-29), then they are entitled to be “an heir through the gracious act of God,” (Gal. 4:7).

As strange as it sounds, the whole point for Jesus being born was for him to die. But his death would not be for any sin he committed for he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Rather, he was born to die for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5) so that we might be saved from eternal death, and live forever as an heir in his coming Kingdom (John 3:16; 18:33-40).

Think about it: When Christ the Redeemer comes into your heart and makes you a son or daughter of God, Christmas has come. No matter if we celebrate Christmas on December 25th or any other date, the main idea is that we know WHY we celebrate it since we’ve invited Jesus to be born in our hearts everyday of our lives. I believe that Christmas time is a wonderful occasion for reminding us of this truth since this is when most people have the best opportunity to think about his birth.

HOW DOES HIS BIRTH AFFECT US?

Any journalist who is serious about reporting the truth will see that the birth of Christ affects our feelings, our faith, and our fruitfulness. It affects our feelings because we experience joy (John 15:11) and peace (John 14:27). It affects our faith for by faith we are saved through God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). It affects our fruitfulness for every product of our actions and thoughts stem from the fact that Jesus was, indeed, born to be Lord and Savior of our lives (Galatians 5:19-24).

His birth also affects the world. “Joy to the World” (words: Isaac Watts; music: George Frederick Handel) is not merely a traditional Christmas song. It’s a statement of truth. It reminds us of the fact that Jesus was born at his first advent (arrival) to bring joy to the world FOREVER at his second advent (arrival) when he returns.

And not only that…the world will finally have “peace on earth, good will” to all, just as in another song we sing at Christmas (“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” words: Henry W. Longfellow; music: J. Baptiste Calkin). You’ll note that “peace on earth” is the what the angel’s heralded at Jesus birth (Luke 2:13-15). Yes, even the angels were affected! Both angels and believers can sing of peace, for Jesus will bring lasting peace when he comes as Prince of Peace according to Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 9:6-7).

For at Jesus’ second coming the scriptures will be fulfilled and all the world will come to know him when he rules and reigns in his Kingdom, sitting on the throne of his father, David, just as the angel to Mary long ago (Luke 2:31-33; compare also, Psalm 2:7-9; 43:4; Isaiah 2:4; 35:10; Revelation 19:15-16). Truly, that will be the age when,

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of his love…

OUR RESPONSE TO THE GOOD NEWS

We could not claim that Christ’s birth affects us these ways if Jesus was not WHO he is. We could not make this claim if WHAT happened on his birthday was no different than any other day. We could not make this claim if WHERE and WHEN he was born had no historic and prophetic importance. We could not make this claim if the WHY of his birth had no connection with our hope and eternal salvation. But because we DO make the claim that Christ’s birth deeply and personally affects us, then we know HOW important it is to be loyal to his holy mission and purpose in our lives.

Imagine, as a Christian, you are a journalist looking into the birth of Christ. Don’t forget to publish this report to everyone willing to hear the truth. Don’t sit on this story or shelve it somewhere. Do your own research and don’t depend on the hearsay of others or any untrustworthy information. You want everybody to learn what really happened for you know that everyone needs to know it. I mean, if it’s good enough for the angels to proclaim, God forbid that WE be silent!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When you look at the lyrics of this song, just think of the joy that the world will truly know when Jesus comes again: https://youtu.be/kyciMYZq2-Y

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