The years rolled by, God was ever at work among this people that He had established. He was teaching and preparing them for the crowning point of His plan. He wanted them to recognize the One whom He would send to them.
But, like all of us, the Jews were slow to learn. God gave them much. He was so close to them. And yet they turned away from Him. Whenever their affairs went smoothly, whenever they became too comfortable, they grew selfish. They thought only of their own selves and forgot their duty to God and to their fellowmen.
God sent special messengers, called Prophets (Nabi), to call them back to true love and worship, but they did not listen. The only way they could learn was for God to strip them of their wealth and comforts that so easily blinded them and made slaves of them. Only famine, war, or disease seemed able to bring them to face reality.
Like all of us, they needed some trial or suffering to remind them that they were not sufficient for themselves. They needed God to call them back to Himself.
This cycle was repeated again and again in their history – riches and prosperity, which in time led to forgetfulness of God; then God’s call to them to come back, But to due to their deafness, some disaster takes place, which finally brought them back to their Father in their need.
If, I am honest, I can see that God deals with me in the same way, because I act towards Him in the same way. When all goes well I ignore Him; when trouble comes I run back to Him.
Slowly God taught His people in this way. Slowly He prepared them for a great event.
We have seen how God called different persons for special tasks in his great plan: Abraham, Moses, the prophets with their warnings to the Jews when they forgot their Lord.
Now the climax is reached. God is about to send His own Son into the midst of His people to complete His plan for their liberation from the slavery of their sins. God’s own Son, Himself God, is about to become a real man and take upon Himself the burden of our sins.
For this He will need a point of entry into our human race. He will need a door. But such a door for such a task will have to be pure and spotless. It must not be used for any unworthy purpose. God had prepared such a door for His own Son. Again we can read it in the Bible:
“When the sixth month came, God sent His messenger, Gabriel, to a city of Galilee called Nazareth where a young girl dwelt, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage; his name was Joseph, and the girl’s name was Mary. Into her presence the angel came and said, `Hail, you who are full of grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.
“She was much perplexed at hearing him speak so, and thought in her mind what she was to make of such a greeting. Then the messenger said to her, `Mary, do not be afraid; you have found favour in the sight of God. And behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and you shall bear a son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He shall be great, and men will know Him for the Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob eternally. His kingdom shall never end.’”
“But Mary said to the messenger, `How can that be since I have no knowledge of man?” And the messenger answered her, `The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Thus this holy offspring of yours shall be known as the Son of God.’ And Mary said, `Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to you word.’ And with that the messenger left her.”
While these events were happening, the world went its way. Men lived and died. They ate and slept; they cheated and robbed; they fought and quarreled; they killed each other in anger and hatred.
But in an obscure village, known only to a few, in time, Mary’s Son was due to be born. No one took any notice or paid any attention. It was not yet time for the Father to make known His Son.
The simple and beautiful story of Christ’s birth – the story of the first Christmas – can be read in the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel.
“It happened,” writes Luke, “that a decree went out at this time from the Emperor Augustus, enjoining that the whole world should be registered. This register was the first one made during the time when Cyrinus was governor of Syria. All must go and give their names, each in his own city; and Joseph being of David’s clan and family, cam up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city in Judea, the city called Bethlehem, to register his name there.”
“With him was his espoused wife Mary, who was then in her pregnancy; and it was while they were still there that the time came for her delivery. She brought froth a son, her first-born, whom she wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a feed-box for animals, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“In the same country there were shepherds awake in the fields, keeping night-watch over their flocks. And all at once an angel of the Lord came and stood by them so that they were overcome with fear. But the angel said to them, `Do not be afraid; behold, I bring you good news of a great rejoicing for the whole people. Today in the city of David, a Saviour has been born for you, the Lord Christ Himself. This is the sign by which you are to know Him: you will find a Child still in swaddling-clothes, lying in a feedbox.’ Then, suddenly, a multitude of the heavenly army appeared to them at the angel’s side, giving praise to God, and saying, `Glory to God in high heaven, and peace on earth to men that are God’s friends.”
This little child – born in a cave for animals on the side of a hill because no one would give a place to Mary, His mother and Joseph, His guardian – is Jesus Christ.
He has come from His Father who is God the Creator of the heavens and earth, and is Himself God.
This, however, is not easy to believe. A man reading Christ’s story cannot easily accept it. In fact, it is only believed by the man or woman to whom God gives the gift of faith.
Before a person can believe, he must read carefully, he must think, he must ask himself questions in his own heart, and above all he must pray to God for light to see where the truth lies.
Questions soon arise: If this is God’s plan, why was Christ not born in a rich family? Why was He born in an obscure country of an unknown and poor mother?
No man can ever fully answer them for no one can fully know God’s mind. But we can get some light by remembering that sin and evil came into the world through the pride and disobedience of our first parents. They put their own self and selfishness in the place of God; and they worshipped themselves instead of the God who made them and placed them as lords of such a wonderful universe. Every sin – my sins too – is the same. I have put myself in the place of God.
Christ came to undo the work of our first parents. He had come to rescue the human race from the slavery of sin – just as through Moses He had rescued His people from the slavery of Egypt. Self-glory and disobedience brought ruin to sinful man. Christ will be the opposite when he comes to lift us up, to restore us to the love and son-ship of His Father, Saint Paul writes:
“Yours is to be the same mind which Christ Jesus showed. His nature is, from the first, divine, and yet He did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted. He dispossessed Himself, and took the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men, and presenting Himself to us in human form; and then He lowered His own dignity, accepted an obedience which brought Him to death, death on a cross.
That is why God has raised Him to such a height, given Him that name which is greater than any other name; so that everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth must bend the knee before the name of Jesus, and every tongue must confess Jesus, and every tongue must confess Jesus Christ as the lord, dwelling in the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2, 5-11).
When you read the Gospel in the future, it is necessary to keep these words about Christ in mind. Otherwise, you cannot discover the secret of Christ.
As Jesus grew into boyhood and manhood, the humble and lowly manner of His circumstances did not change. His family never became rich and powerful. His foster-father, Joseph, was a carpenter, and as Jesus grew up, He worked as a carpenter’s boy and helped Mary His mother as any good youngster in a family does.
When He was thirty years old, He left His home and His carpenter’s work to show men the Way (“Marg”) that would lead them to the Father. But these thirty hidden years also are full of wisdom for the man or woman with an open, searching and reflective mind.
Because we are made by God, we are His servants. But He wishes us to become His children, His adopted children, when though our first parents, sin entered the world, the whole human family lost this glorious privilege of son-ship. To restore it, the Father sent His only son to become our Brother and to make good of our folly.
Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, “by whom all things were made.” Hence, He “knows the clay of which we are made.” He knows that words instruct, but example inspires. He knows human limitations and knows human psychology; He knows that even the most carefully worded instruction is often misunderstood. But give the craftsman a model to copy, even if is the Taj Mahal, and you may get a perfect job.
And so Jesus lived a fully human life from his birth to His death to give a living model or pattern of what every life must be like in thought, desire, word and deed in order to achieve the fullest measure of Christ-likeness. This will be for each of us the fullest measure of self-realization.
Christ’s hidden life is of great importance for each of us, for to be acceptable to our Maker who made us in His own image and likeness, our life must be godly, God-like. In human terms that means Christ-like. For all eternity after our death, our capacity for sharing in the divine life will depend on the degree of Christ-likeness we shall have acquired in our present life of growth and preparation. This is in brief the Christian philosophy of life.
This at once shows how important it is to know what the mortal life of Jesus Himself was. On the very night before He died, he said: “I have given you an example that as I have done you also should do.”
Since Christ was sent by the Father precisely to be the Saviour to a world not of saints but of sinners, every moment of His life, from His birth to His death. He was constantly faithful to His `Mission’ to be the Saviour. This is highlighted by the one and only recorded saying of thirty years, when as a lad of twelve He reminded His mother, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And so the boy Jesus lived with His foster-father Joseph and His mother to spend all these years in teaching not only the common man but the eminent saint as well that all, yes all, can do what He afterwards told them they must do – namely, the Father’s will.
For this was the solemn promise He made to the Father:-“Behold, I have come to do Your will.” And this is what He did every moment in His hidden life, in His public life, and in His suffering and death. For this is the test and proof of the love, that is “the whole law.” Jesus insisted, “He that does the will of the Father in heaven, he it is that truly loves God.”
And because this was the Father’s wish, Jesus spent His most extraordinary life in a most ordinary manner. He was obedient to His parents, as He asks every other son and daughter to be. He fitted Himself to be the bread-winner to His family, since the great mass of His brothers and sisters are workers. He too lived by the labour of His lands. But always, always he was “doing the will of Him that sent Me.” For this is the very heart of Christ-likeness.
What important lessons for all of us lie in the hidden life of these thirty years! The supremacy of God’s mastery; the sacredness of the family; the fact that man was created a social being and not an isolated individual; the fundamental importance of the principle of God-given authority and divinely imposed obedience; the dignity of manual labour – all these facts which all men must recognize and accept. No wonder the God-given Teacher repeats these lessons day after day. They are difficult lessons, but they are fundamental.
Christ had come into the world to do the most important task to be done – to deliver us all from the slavery of our sins and to make us sons and daughters of God once more. If He spent the greatest part of His thirty years engaged in ordinary everyday work, He teaches you and me very clearly the value and dignity of our everyday work.
When God created the world, He gave it to us to work and develop. He made us co-workers with Himself. He expects us to uncover the riches. He has hidden in the depths of the universe for our use.
With sin, work became a punishment, but with Christ the Worker and Christ the Saviour, work has been restored. Our work has been given a tremendous value and dignity by Christ.
We spend the greater part of our day and of our lives working. We must never think that our journey to God and our daily work are different things. We can only find our way to God in our work. By work, I support my family, I cooperate with God in growing crops for others, in manufacturing or selling goods for others, in doing the office work necessary for making the modern world function smoothly, in teaching others and training them to lead rich and full lives.
With Christ my work shares the purpose of His work. He is the Saviour of the world, the one who delivers all men from slavery; and when I do my work with Him and in Him, I share in His liberating work. I help myself and I serve and help others with Him and though Him.
In this section we have seen surprising things about Jesus Christ. He was born into the world to liberate mankind from the slavery of sin. But the manner in which He came is not what we would expect. We would not expect the Son of God to be born in such obscurity. We would not expect Him to grow up in the hidden family of an unknown carpenter.
It is time to pause and think a little in silence on these things. Do the events described seem credible? Do they touch me in any way? Do they have the mark of God’s hand upon them or are they only a story thought up and told by men?
I shall ask myself a question in all honesty at this point: Does this story of Christ so far have a message for me in my heart? Can there be a message for me from God in all this?
Lord, at times when I am serious,
I feel that something important is missing in my life.
I do not know what it is.
Perhaps, it is You!
My eyes are weak, Lord, and I am slow to see:
Often what I think to be most important is not so;
What I think to be of little importance is most important.
You chose Mary who was so weak and small.
To be the Mother of Your Son, Jesus,
Please, Lord, teach me to value what You value.