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Greatest Fact Of History!

Matthew 2: 1-12

According to legend, in 1822 a certain father was traveling by sleigh to purchase a Christmas turkey
when a fanciful poem began to stir in his mind.
Returning home, he jotted down the verses that night and gathered his family around the fire.

With wide-eyed wonder, his little ones delighted in his poetic description of St. Nicholas
as a "right jolly old elf" who rode a magic sleigh heaped with toys and pulled by 8 tiny reindeer."

Clement C. Moore's enchanting "The Night Before Christmas" has since been retold countless times,
becoming the inspiration for every child's Christmas sugar plum fantasies.

Almost 200 Christmases and thousands of shopping trips later, another father has composed
a somewhat less idealistic poem about the Christmas event.

It is entitled: "'''Twas The Day after Christmas."

"'Twas the day after Christmas
When all through the place
There were arguments and depression --
Even Mom had a long face.

The stockings hung empty,
And the house was a mess;
The new clothes didn't fit...
And Dad was under stress.

The family was irritable
And the children -- no one could please;
Because the instructions for the swing set
Were written in Chinese!

The bells no longer jingled
And no carolers came around;
The sink was stacked with dishes
And the tree was turning brown
.

The stores were full of people
Returning things that fizzled and failed,
And the shoppers were discouraged
Because everything they'd bought
Was now on half-price sale!

'''Twas the day after Christmas --
The spirit of joy had disappeared;
The only hope on the horizon
Was 12 bowl games
The first day of the new year.
"

Before Christmas, children dream about Santa Claus and his glittering gifts of joy.
But after Christmas, the tinsel tarnishes, the tree dries up, and it's back to life as usual.
With a sigh, we survey the tossed-aside toys, the stack of dirty dishes, and the even higher stack
of unpaid bills; and soon our "Ho! Ho! Ho!" turns to "Oh! Oh! Oh!"

Thankfully, though, the true hope of Christmas never fades or disappoints because the days after
that first Noel were filled with a wonder all their own.
To escape fantasy's buildup and inevitable letdown, let's take firm hold of our very real hope woven
through those years following Christ's birth in the manger.

Matthew 2: 1-12 tells of the Magi's journey to find the baby Jesus.
When they get as far as Jerusalem, they begin asking: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?
For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him
." (Matthew 2: 2)

Their question rattles the Jews present king, Herod, who immediately summons the top religious leaders to find the answer.
Herod passes on to the Magi the prophecy of Micah in the hope that the Wise Men will find this new King
and come back and tell him where He is, so he can kill Him. (Verse 8)

Unaware of Herod's scheme, the Magi resumed their journey.
"And lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came
and stood over where the Child was.
And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him;

And opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
" (Vs. 9-11)
(Jesus could have been as old as two years at this time.)

Their precious time of adoration ends, and they are alerted in a dream about Herod's scheme.
So these Wise Men take another route home. (Verse 12)

Escape to Egypt

Joseph is warned in a dream: "Arise and take the Child and His Mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there
until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him
."

"And he arose and took the Child and His Mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod,
that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'Out of Egypt did I call My Son
." (Vs. 13-15)

While Joseph, Mary, and young Jesus were escaping to safety the rest of Bethlehem wasn't so fortunate.
Herod, enraged that the Magi had foiled his plan, ruthlessly ordered the death of all boys ages two and under. (Verse 16)

Return to Nazareth

Far away from Herod's sting, Jesus remained hidden in Egypt until the murderous king died.
Then, as promised, the angel revisited Joseph, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His Mother,
and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead
." (Verse 20)

Jesus and His family returned to the land of Israel, the Judean region was still dangerous; so Joseph was again warned
of God to take his family to a calmer Galilee and they settled down in the city of Nazareth. (Vs. 21-23)

Growing up in Nazareth

Little is known of Jesus' day in Nazareth.
The only gospel writer to mention those childhood days is Luke.
He simply sums up Jesus' development in Luke 2: 40: "And the Child continued to grow and become strong,
increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him
."

We have one more glimpse of Jesus when He was 12.
That age was a significant year for a young Jewish boy, because the next year, age 13, marked the entrance
"into the fall responsibilities of adulthood."
During the prior year the father was required to acquaint him with the duties and regulations which he was soon to assume.

And where what Jesus go to be trained in His "duties and regulations"?
He would go to His Father's house, the temple.
So after a family Passover journey to Jerusalem, Jesus lingered behind to learn in the temple...
And on this occasion Jesus stayed in the temple, while His parents and all who traveled with Him were 3 days
before they realized Jesus was missing.

Evidently, they didn't have a roll call.
Three days had passed and Jesus was missing and they were frantic.
They traced their steps and finally found Him: "Sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them
and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers
." (Vs. 46b-47)

When Mary saw Him, she reacted like any mother.
But He replied, "Did you not know that I must be about my father's business." (Verse 49b)

At 12, Jesus was well aware of His identity.

Let us remember that scene of the Magi worshiping Jesus. So often when we come to Jesus, we come with our hands out, not as the Magi with faces bowed.
We ask Him to give us gifts -- of health, happiness, etc.
How seldom do we offer Him our treasures.

Take a few quiet moments for worship. Whenever I try to comprehend the simple truth that Christ left heaven for me personally,
I am absolutely astounded. Yet, the greatest fact of history is that Jesus Christ did exactly that. Someone has said, concerning that night...

"That night when in the Judean skies
The mystic star dispensed its light,
A blind man moved in his sleep --
And dreamed that he had sight!

That night when shepherds heard the song
Of hosts angelic choiring near;
a deaf man stirred in slumber's spell --
And dreamed that he could hear!

That night when in the cattle stall
Slept child and mother cheek by jowl,
A cripple turned his twisted limbs --
And dreamed that he was whole!


That night when o'er the newborn babe
The tender Mary rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep --
And dreamed that he was clean!

That night when to the mother's heart
The little King was held secure,
A harlot slept a happy sleep --
And dreamed that she was pure!

That night when in the manger lay
The sanctified who came to save,
A man moved in the sleep of death --
And dreamed there was no grave!
"
-- Source Unknown

Only the sinless Son of God could lay down His life as an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.
Only His blood could wash away our iniquity and set us free from the penalty of condemnation we deserved.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@AOL.com