When Jesus came to us in the Bethlehem it was part of a divine plan and mission to change the course of the world. Although surrounded by angels, he was most recognized and worshiped by the poorest and most insignificant among us.
When the Three Magi-Kings came to visit the Baby Jesus days later there was already a sense that the most important part of his journey to birth was over. Their expensive gifts did not compare to the simple thoughts and admiration of a humble people that worked with the animals that saw a mother having a baby that was to transform a religious belief system.
Jesus was the first-born in flesh by Mary and first-born as a spiritual symbol of God himself. The story of his plight as the first in his family has some similarities with Jewish tradition.
The concept of a first-born in biblical terms goes all the way back to Abraham and his two sons Ishmael and Isaac, both conceived late in their father’s life. Fearing no heir after a life-time of waiting, Abraham took in his Egyptian servant Hagar and had his son Ishmael by her.
By right, Ishmael was to be the descendant that expanded Abraham’s world. However, late in age, Sara, Abraham’s wife, had a son herself, Isaac, that went on to be anointed by God to take the place belonging to Ishmael.
So Ishmael, the first-born son of Abraham lost his birthright to his younger brother. He went on however, to become the father of the Arab community.
A similar thing happened with Isaac’s children Esau and Jacob. They were twins but Esau was born first and therefore deserved the father’s blessing and inheritance.
Although gaining his father’s blessing through trickery, Jacob favored by God, went on to continue the building of the Jewish nation. Esau, like his uncle Ishmael, lost his rights as history went against him.
A most famous first-born story in the Old Testament is told in conjunction with the escape of the Jewish nation from Egyptian slavery. One of the major events caused by Moises’ attempt to bring his people out of slavery, was God’s promise that every firstborn son in Egypt will die if the Pharaoh did not let his people go.
He did just that. This event represents the beginning of way for a people to build a new nation and a new way of life.
In the Jesus story, King Herod, the reigning monarch of the area, after hearing of the birth of someone that might challenge his throne, decreed that all first-born would be killed. Mary and Joseph had to escape with the Baby Jesus to Egypt to avoid the edict.
But Jesus’s death was not something that could be long avoided. His ministry was so provocative that it led to his being ridiculed, convicted, crucified and taken out of the Jewish historical line.
However, this also led to his resurrection and the greatest triumph as the savior of mankind. The Christmas story has humble beginnings leading to a dynamic ministry and a great ending.
The celebration of life in the beginning of the story also brings an offer of a new start to every believer. The beauty of Christmas is that it can be a time to say thanks for that new opportunity.
It is a time to gather and find a better way to live together as a family, as a community and as a nation. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” begins here. Merry Christmas.