It’s always good for Christian families to get together at Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Saviour. Yet it is interesting that we rarely consider some of the circumstances of His birth, which are of great significance.
What are they?
Jesus was born into Joseph and Mary’s godly family. While His birth was acknowledged by a surprise visit from the magi, along with a bunch of angelically-directed shepherds, not everyone rejoiced at His birth. Herod was of course king, and the notion of a ruler from Bethlehem “…Who will shepherd My people Israel” (Mat.2:6) did not go down so well with him.
The Lord knew that Herod would respond murderously. He sent an angel who “appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him’” (Mat.2:13).
Why is this significant today?
The godly things you want to do with your family will not be universally popular. Just today I had a man in the work-place sneering at the notion of home-schooling, because (he said), children will only get “brainwashed.” Like Joseph and Mary (and Moses’ parents 1,500 years earlier), you may need to protect your children from those who oppose them receiving a godly upbringing at your hands.
Jesus didn’t get special opportunities in growing up. His Father placed Him in a family, probably not that dissimilar to yours. And it was in that family that He learned to be under authority. The Bible tells us that in relation to Mary and Joseph, Jesus “…continued in subjection to them…” (Luke 2:51). In another place it says that “…He learned obedience from the things which he suffered” (Heb.5:8). No special passes for Mary’s eldest son.
This teaches us something else. Children’s obedience in the home and family is very important. Jesus learned it, and Mary had a graphic lesson in the importance of submission and obedience when she followed her husband to Egypt, after he’d been awakened by an angel. So even though it requires a painstaking effort on our part, training in obedience is a vital part of a child’s education. According to the Fifth Commandment (Ex.20:5; Eph. 6:2-3), it will be rewarded.
The Bible tells us “the wise of heart will receive commands…” (Prov.10:8), and that “it is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right” (Prov.20:11), so it is essential to teach children to be command oriented people, in the first God-ordained place of hierarchy in the community, the family.
Well, that’s what God requires of us. He requires that we give great diligence to obeying His Word, and promises us great blessing in the process. Speaking of His Heavenly Father, Jesus said that “…I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn.8:29). Later on, Jesus exhibited what He’d learned in the home of Mary and Joseph, when He ignored the shame and suffering of the cross, to die in obedience to our Heavenly Father.
Lots of people want to have authority, but only a tiny fraction of these people realise that in order to be in authority, you have to be first under it. (This is one of the reasons Jesus commended the Roman centurion in Mat.8:10). But if a Private won’t submit willingly to the Sergeant’s commands, he may stay a Private for a long time.
One day, our families will be celebrating Christmas, and we won’t be there. But there is a grand, God-given opportunity today, to leave behind an impact on your children (just as Joseph and Mary did) that they could well be appreciating, more than fifty years from now. That’ll give you another reason to be celebrating in heaven, at some Christmas time in the future.