No doubt there was more than one baby lying wrapped in strips of cloth on the night of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. For the poor of that day, who had nothing else to wrap a baby in, that was nothing unusual. But to put a baby in a manger was most unusual. And so, the sign was given to the shepherds. “You can go and hunt around Bethlehem, but you’re only going to find one baby—a poor little baby—wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. That is the One.”
On that first Christmas night, the angels appeared to shepherds on a hill near Bethlehem. Alfred Edersheim, the great 19th-century Jewish-Christian scholar, wrote in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah that the shepherds and the sheep to whom the angels appeared near Bethlehem were no ordinary shepherds and sheep. The sheep were those bound for the temple sacrifices. The shepherds were outcasts because of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances. And their manner of life rendered legal observances unlikely, if not absolutely impossible.
When God the Father scattered the Milky Way and hung Saturn’s rings in place, He thought about Christmas. As God the Son, working in unity with the Father, fashioned the lumbering oxen and the gentle cow with His creative power, He thought of the day when the Father would speak and He’d become flesh. On that day He would gaze with “baby eyes” upon the very creatures He had made.
What could have possibly motivated the interest of the magi? We know the magi advised kings in those days. The birth of a new king would at least have been of political interest to them. But they seem to be driven by more than political concerns. Something more significant was motivating their inquiry. And even though they engaged in astrology—which the Lord had specifically forbidden His people to be involved in—God still used their faulty understanding to lead them to the truth.
It was a marvelous moment of spiritual insight. As Israel’s shepherd went about his daily work of tending sheep, David realized that the loving care he gave his sheep was like the loving care he received from God. So begins David’s most famous psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
I don’t understand why people get so perturbed at the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth. If the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish it, then nothing is impossible. The Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than the divine invasion of God into this world. This is a source of great joy. The fact that God brought His Son into the world in this way once again demonstrates His unlimited power and wisdom.