When we listen to Christmas carols and look at Christmas cards, we often find them filled with sentimental terms such as “tidings,” “goodwill,” “noel,” “cheer” and “Merry Christmas.”
Scenes on the cards typically depict a newborn (who looks about two years old) with radiant beams from His holy face, oxen and donkeys bowing, with halos hovering above Jesus, Joseph and Mary.
(Painting by Mattia Preti. Public domain.)
We call the baby’s bed a “manger,” not a feed trough. We label the scene a “nativity,” not a birth. We’ve even built a church over the cave where Christ was born!
We do all we can to take away the ignobility the Bible explicitly portrays. And what’s that? Christ’s birth represented humility in the truest sense of the word.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, Micah prophesied that One coming from eternity would bring the Jews back to their land and rule Israel with worldwide fame in the strength of the Lord (Micah 5:2-5). This mighty Messiah would come from the ignoble, little town of Ruth and David: Bethlehem (see Ruth 4:11, 22).
Why such unadorned humility? Because Jesus came the first time to live the life we should have lived and to die the death we should have died for our sins. The second coming of Christ is the one everyone wanted first. While Micah blended both advents into one prophesy, we understand the necessity of their separation (see Heb. 9:28).
We needed a Savior before we needed a King.
The words Phillips Brooks penned in 1868 after a Christmas Eve visit to Bethlehem remain so appropriate:
In thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light: the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.