Christmas Samplings

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Sample paragraph from page 22

John the Baptist

A decade later, all Israel was talking about John the Baptist. According to John 1:19-27, many wondered if John was the Messiah. John’s father was a Levite Priest, but his mother was of the lineage of David. Leading Jews (Gamaliel?) even sent Levites and priests to Bethany on the Jordan to investigate this possibility (see also Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14 and 17:11-13). John seemed unimpressed by all this attention, and when Pharisees and Sadducees came to John’s baptism, he called them a brood of snakes (Matthew 3:7)!

Sample paragraphs from pages 62-63

Jesus of Nazareth? Impossible!

Nicodemus appears to have been a highly esteemed member of the Sanhedrin, for he is called "the teacher in Israel and a leader of the Jews" in John 3:1-2. Nicodemus had apparently been impressed by Jesus' teachings and miracles, but he was also concerned about his own image. He paid Jesus a visit in the night, when he wouldn't be recognized by others, but his motivation was clearly interest in the person and teachings of Jesus.

In one of numerous sessions of the Sanhedrin which dealt with the question of what to do with Jesus, Nicodemus attempted to come to his defense. His colleagues reacted promptly and with contempt. "Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52).

Where did they get this idea? Although it was clear from scripture that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem and not Galilee, these men claimed that NO prophet could come from Galilee. Nazareth, Galilee and Samaria were despised by the Pharisees, and since Jesus was from Nazareth, the Jewish leaders concluded that he could not possibly be a prophet and certainly not the promised Messiah. The prophet Jonah was born in Gath-Hepher, which is only three miles from Nazareth, but he was held in disrepute by the Sadducees because he preached that God offered salvation to the Gentiles. The Pharisees were divided on that matter (see Chapter 18), but they too looked down on Jonah because he did everything in his power to escape obeying God. On one occasion, Jesus told the Pharisees that the only sign they would receive from God was “the sign of the prophet Jonah.” They would have viewed this as an open insult!

Upon being introduced to Jesus, Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The poor reputation of Nazareth can be traced to the Pharisees’ diligent defamation of the city more than to historical facts about its citizenry. The terms “Jesus of Nazareth” and “the Galilean” were intended to be defamatory in nature, but Jesus readily accepted them. In fact, he never mentions his birthplace in Bethlehem and although he lived much longer in Capernaum than he did in Nazareth, he never claimed to be from that city. Most of his disciples were Galileans, and the apostles preached and performed miracles in the name of “Jesus of Nazareth.” In his post-resurrection appearance to Saul of Tarsus, Jesus revealed himself as “Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecuteth.”

From Chapter 8

A Controversial Christmas Quiz

I made up a multiple choice quiz (Appendix I) about the first Christmas a few years ago, which traveled around the world by internet and was completed by perhaps 20,000 persons. Nearly everyone who took my quiz failed, including pastors and professors with doctorates in theology. When I attempt to show irate participants that some aspects of the Christmas story they believe are not biblical, many become indignant!

Most Christians seem to prefer tradition to clear Bible teaching. They believe, for instance, that three kings visited the manger in Bethlehem. Roman Catholics can even tell you their names and the color of their skin! The Bible simply calls them "magi" and says that they came from afar. Because they reported sighting a special star "in the East," we must assume as any Jew of that period would have, that they were Chaldean star gazers from the region of Babylon.

It is true that Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem to seek out the newborn baby, but they had hardly departed from the palace when the same star reappeared. The star did NOT lead them to Bethlehem, but it led them to the "house" where Jesus lived with Joseph and Mary. The wise men did NOT obey Herod; they obeyed God instead - as wise men still do (Matthew 2:9-12)! The house where they found Jesus was obviously located in Nazareth.

Jesus was circumcised at eight days of age, perhaps in Bethlehem but more likely in Nazareth. The Bible declares that Jesus was dedicated in the temple of Jerusalem after the period of purification, which according to Leviticus 12:4, lasted 40 days. Following his dedication, the family "returned to Nazareth" (Luke 2:21-22 & 39). They also returned to Nazareth after their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:23). Consider how much time it would have taken for the Magi to get to Jerusalem (about 600 miles) and for Joseph and Mary to get to Egypt and back (200 miles).

Some have argued that Jesus would not have been in any danger had he not been in Bethlehem. Only the children in the surrounds of this town were killed, so there would have been no need for Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt.

Let me first state that Jesus was never in any real danger! Many attempts were made on his life beginning with Herod, continuing with Satan himself during the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4) and often throughout his ministry (Luke 9:51, John 7:6-8 and John 8:59). When in seeming danger, Jesus declared that "his time was not yet come." Being omnipotent, God could easily have kept Jesus safe from Herod's baby-killing henchmen. Don't you think that the army of angels which appeared to the shepherds could have warded off Herod's soldiers? Jesus said at his crucifixion that he could summon more than 12 legions of angels (48,000-72,000!) to rescue him from the cross, but his time had now come. Jesus prayed to his Father in heaven, "Not my will, but thine be done."

One reason Joseph and Mary were commanded to travel to Egypt was so that scripture should be fulfilled (Matthew 2:15).

Another reason was that God probably wanted Joseph and Mary to live peacefully with their baby. Can you imagine what it would have been like for a nursing mother to be constantly anxious for her baby's life? The slaughter of infants obviously took place several months after Jesus was born. Even if Joseph and Mary had been living in Nazareth, they would have been struck with terror at the news of such a vicious attack designed to kill their special child. Herod was a hard calculator who didn't give up easily and left nothing to chance. The angel said, "Herod will seek the young child to destroy him" (Matthew 2:13). He was certain to learn sooner or later that his attempt to kill the newborn prince had failed!

Even though further attempts on the life of Jesus would have been equally doomed to failure, Joseph and Mary were human. Joseph was fearful even after God told them that it was safe to return home (Matthew 2:20-22). Our loving heavenly Father protected them from the anxiety and stress of a fugitive life by sending them to Egypt. He even provided them with gold (from the wise men) which would have sufficed for their travel expenses.

"Don't Confuse Me With the Facts!"

Many Christians today prefer "Christmas card theology" and traditions of human origin to the biblical account of Jesus' birth. Some Christians who took my quiz were so upset about my desecration of their manger scenes, that they even refused to read the Bible passages I gave them! It seems as impossible to get the holy family out of the manger in Bethlehem today as it was to find a room in the inn 2000 years ago!

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