Preparations for our church’s Christmas production were already taking place as early as September. By opening night, each song will have been practiced many times; each line will be memorized (hopefully). All of the costumes will be ready, and every prop will have been strategically placed. The stage will be set for the grand performance, and every scene and movement will have been calculated with great deliberation and planning.
But all of this pales in comparison to the preparation that Almighty God put into the very first Christmas production – the birth of His Son, Christ Jesus. Every fact and facet of this momentous event was calculated by God with great precision and forethought.
I. God Prepared The World For The First Christmas
Shakespeare wrote that “all the world’s a stage,” and Luke 2:1-4 details how God set this stage for His grand and glorious Christmas production! In fact, more than seven centuries before we come to the scene of Jesus’ birth, the prophet Micah told us that the setting would be Bethlehem. When we consider that God was making preparations for the birth of Christ, we have to think about the message of the prophet who said, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth …” (Micah 5:2). Was it coincidence that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? No. For as De Boylesve states, “Augustus, while sending forth his edicts to the utmost limits of the East, little knew that on his part he was obeying the decrees of the King of kings.” God’s direction is evident even in the movement of the population. Caesar had thought to feed his pride and eventually fill his coffers through this census and taxation process, but God was using this to get Mary and Joseph where they needed to be. W.H. Van Doren wrote that “to locate an infant’s birth, 60 millions of persons are enrolled.” God prepared a world and set the stage for His Christmas production.
II. God Prepared The Woman For The First Christmas
Some of the most amazing aspects of what God was doing in preparation for the first Christmas pertain to a young lady named Mary. We are reminded in Luke 2:4-5 that Mary was espoused to Joseph. The espousal involved a period of nearly one year in which there existed the commitment but not the cohabitation of a marital relationship. It was a time when the couple focused upon their preparation and purification for marriage. Mary and Joseph had not lived in the same household, nor shared the intimacy of marriage. But by the time Jesus was born there was both a mother and a stepfather who were together called “the parents” (Luke 2:27). In His providential preparation, God saw to it that this would be no single-parent household. And then, the single most important aspect of all this Divine preparation is highlighted as we are reminded that Mary was expecting, for Luke 1:5 says that she was “great with child.” When Mary was told that she would have this son, she said, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). I can no more understand the miracle of the conception and the incarnation of Christ than Mary could, but somehow the Holy Ghost came upon her and the power of the Highest overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). And in the midst of the marriage and the miracle in the life of Mary, God was getting things ready for Christmas.
III. God Prepared The Way For The First Christmas
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “when He cometh into the world, (Christ said), Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me” (Hebrews 10:5). Christ was “made” of His mother (according to Galatians 4:4) and “prepared” of His Father. For nine months, behind the veil of a virgin womb, God was wrapping the greatest Christmas gift, the Lord Jesus, in human flesh. This same Jesus would later say to one of His disciples, “I am the way” (John 14:6). So God actually prepared “the way” for the first Christmas. There was not just “a way in a manger” that night, but there was “the way” in a manger.
We do not know who composed the well-known Christmas carol “Away In A Manger,” but we do know that Almighty God prepared the Christ child – “the way” in a manger. God prepared a way of deliverance in the person of Jesus, “For,” as the angel said unto the shepherds, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). That Christ was a Saviour tells us that He was literally, a deliverer Who has given us rescue and safety through His great salvation.
Furthermore, in the person of Jesus, God prepared a way of delight. The angel said to the shepherds, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10), and this word “joy” has the idea of cheerfulness and a calm delight. God made a way for us to know Jesus and, through knowing Jesus, subsequently to know joy. Jesus is our deliverer and our delight. He is God’s glorious gift for you and for me.
Christmas would not only be unsuccessful but non-existent in our household were it not for the intervention of my wife and her preparation in making Christmas something special. Similarly, had Almighty God not intervened in human history and made preparation for that first Christmas in every detail, there would be no holiday, no hope, and no joy to the world. I’m glad that God was prepared and ready for Christmas.
David E. Owen is Pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Acworth, GA.