So, here we are ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Don't let our contracting economy, sagging Christmas retail sales, general uncertainty, personal hardship, and those people with holiday greetings that refuse to include the word "Christmas" distract us from pausing and recognizing the place in time where God invaded humanity - "being found in appearance as man," "being made in human likeness."
The historical and prophetic evidence for the birth and life of Jesus provides a convincing factual foundation for biblical faith. It spans thousands of years and comes from ancients hoping for Messiah, contemporaries who walked in Jesus footsteps, followers carrying on after His death, and unbelieving chroniclers wrestling with the facts.
Isaiah proclaims His miraculous birth: "therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." The Psalmist identifies His nature: "I proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become you Father." Jeremiah tells of His lineage: "The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land." Micah points out the place of this miracle (and again, His nature): But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
The Gospel of Luke puts it plain and simple: "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
The New Testament epistles contain a number of texts that scholars have identified as pre-New Testament songs and creeds. With Paul's epistles starting as early as 15 years after Jesus death, these texts belong to His immediate followers. "... His Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 1:3-4. "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:6-8. "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. " I Timothy 3:16.
Writing in the later half of the first Century of Nero's persecution of Roman Christians, Cornelius Tacitus observes "Hence, to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the person commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontious Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius" but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." At the same time, Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata scorned Christians in his writings. "The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites and was crucified on their account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them."
We could explore the evidence for hours and still have stacks left - it's strong. The prosecutors on Law and Order wish they had it this easy, all of Manhattan would be safe. Believers have filled the 1900 years after the Chroniclers with continuing evidence of the reality of Jesus. The overwhelming experience of God's love has motivated multitudes to proclaim Jesus to their own deaths. Renewed minds and transformed lives have pushed forward the best social reforms in history.
Our faith is founded on fact. So, pause, gather yourself, and stop to think about that point in time when Jesus was born. That moment which God had prepared for His Son to take human form in preparation for the redemption of mankind and the future redemption of all creation - the unsearchable riches of Christ, the mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God.