THE STRUGGLE OF CHRISTMAS IS REAL
Part 5: The Epiphany
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
How could it be good news of great joy? The context of Jesus’ conception was wrought with intents of divorce and unfavorable circumstances. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary quietly, not wanting to put her to shame, since she had conceived of the child. For him, it must have been a harrowing experience to have someone betrothed to you only to find her all of a sudden pregnant with someone else’s kid.
Mary probably told “her story” of how she has conceived the baby through the power of the Holy Spirit but Joseph would’ve probably shrugged it off as an elaborate hoax—a deceptive and blasphemous cover up for her apparent adultery and infidelity.
Finally when Joseph was about to go with the deed, the Lord suddenly stopped him dead in his tracks and allowed an angelic encounter to finally prove that what had happened was not the result of Mary’s unfaithfulness but was in fact the result of God’s faithfulness.
Matthew 1:20-25 recounts,
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins…When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
The epiphany of the Son to come was clear to Joseph. Even amidst a confusing and seemingly miserable time of separation, inner turmoil, and betrayal, there had come good news of great joy: this child was to “save his people from their sins”, and for Joseph, that was infinitely more than what he could ever expect of the situation he found himself in.
As if the situation hadn’t gotten bad enough for Joseph’s small family-to-be, it did get worse on a geo-political, socio-cultural, and heavenly-cosmic level. Well that escalated quickly.
When the Magi (or wise men from the east, probably Persia) also saw the epiphany of the Messiah, they inquired of the king, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). These men were gentiles (non-Jewish folk) who came all the way from their land just to worship and adore the Christ.
Even the skies pointed to the coming of this Messiah through the bright morning Star that led the wise men to Jesus. It was undeniable that this heavenly celestial phenomenon had given all the more proof of the cosmic situation that Jesus was born into.
Matthew 2:8-12 states,
“And he (king Herod) sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him…
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
Again, how could it be good news of great joy? The context of Jesus’ actual birth was one of murderous proportions! Under the kingship of Herod, upon hearing that the King of the Jews was to be born, ordered a mass execution of babies and the youth. On that day, the land saw a great infanticide and child massacre: all the male children who were two years old or younger were slain in Bethlehem and in the surrounding region (Matthew 2:16-18) because king Herod wanted to “search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13).
The king was mad in his hunger to secure his position that when he heard that this Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, he went blood-thirsty and ruthless, seeking to thwart and kill whoever would possibly take his place as king.
The true and divine King was to be born and the kings of the earth could not do anything to stop it.
Not even the king Herod and his ploy were able to stop the unfolding of God’s plan in the birth of the Savior. Not even Joseph’s plan to divorce and leave Mary could stop the coming of the Messiah. Not even the heavens in proclaiming the birth of the Son of Man could stop from beaming and lighting the way through the phenomenal Star. Not even the all the thousands upon millions of angelic hosts and heavenly angels could refrain from their great rejoicing at this event; they continually sang and praised the Lord:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
The characters in this story have a great deal to share with us on how to respond to the coming of Christ Jesus, the Messiah. Let’s probe our own situations and see how we could evaluate and respond in the following manners:
- Like Joseph, caught in the middle of a divorce and separation, when his hopes for a family are shattered, respond in a manner of faith: trusting in God that despite the confusing and dire situation, the Lord has a purpose that He wants to accomplish through Joseph’s life. Like Joseph’s response to the epiphany-encounter, how can you trust the Lord in faith for whatever is to come out of your current struggle to believe, struggle to endure, and struggle to understand?
- Like the Magi (Wise Men), unsure of what their journey would be, explored the unknown and braved beyond their comfort zone to seek and pursue the coming of the Savior. They left all they had from the East and brought with them everything they had to offer: gifts of great value unto the Son of Man. Like them, would you leave everything behind only to bring all to Jesus? How would pursuing Jesus look like in your life today?
- Like king Herod, caught in the hunger for worldly position and fleshly blood-thirst, thwart the coming of this Messiah upon his life. Would you keep your heart calloused and unrepentant for your sins because you know that when the true King comes, He will lovingly require all of your boasting to be humbled, your possessions to be shared, your power to be used for good, and your desires to be transformed into His desires?
Pray to the Lord that wherever you find yourself in—that you would come and draw near to Jesus for He has come for you and to you. This is the Good News of great joy that will be for ALL the people!
To continue reading this devotional series, please see Part 6: Making Room For Christ(mas) – The Nativity