This weekend I was pushing a stroller through blizzard like temperature towards the bright lights at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. As we neared the scene, I began to hear the sound of the Christmas Story being read by what seemed like the voice of an archangel. The lights, statues, and sounds took my breath, and for a moment, I was stilled by the glory of it all. But this was not the nativity scene, but merely a shadow, a dim picture of the actual one some two millenniums earlier.
In Bethlehem something more real, more true, and more glorious was happening. As it was written from old,
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:6, quoting Micah 5:2)
God had told His people that a ruler would come from Bethlehem, and this ruler would be a shepherd over God’s people. At the birth of Jesus, Matthew proclaims Jesus to be the ruler who has come to rule over God’s people.
So how will this new King be welcomed? First, we find wise men from the east following a supernatural star so they might bring Him gifts and worship Him. Next, Herod (the current king) says he wants to see the baby and worship Him as well (he really just wants to kill this new king). When the wise men find Jesus, they rejoice exceedingly, worship Him, and give him expensive gifts.
For fear of Herod (who was killing all the babies and toddlers in Bethlehem), Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt until Herod died. Matthew says this was to fulfill the prophecy from Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” This is interesting because if you read the prophecy from Hosea, “son” is referring to the nation of Israel, but in Matthew, “son” is referring to one Israelite; Jesus.
Why is this? I think it is because Jesus is true Israel. Jesus is the only Israelite who kept the covenant through obedience, and received the promised blessing. And the good news for us is that in Jesus we have become true Israel as well. In Jesus we have always obeyed, and therefore we receive His blessing rather than our curse.
Therefore, Jesus is the true Son of God and in Him, we are also beloved sons. That’s the good news every living nativity scene this holiday season is trying to tell, but somehow always falls short of the living, breathing, beating heart laying in a manger.