JULY 31 - Nº 212 Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20
Soon after Mary returned to Nazareth, Joseph had a big decision to make. His fiancée was pregnant, and he was not the father of the baby! Should he marry her or break the engagement? She told him the story about the angel visiting her and the Holy Spirit giving her a miraculous child who would save people from their sins. But her explanation only made the decision more difficult. Joseph was a godly man and wanted to do the right thing. He did not want to publicly humiliate Mary, so he decided to quietly break their engagement. However, before he could do this, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. Her pregnancy is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus (translated ‘Savior’), because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph was stunned. Everything Mary had said was true! Joseph chose to accept Mary as his wife. In those days, Rome ruled over Israel, and Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome. He decided to take a census of his empire, so he sent everyone back to the city of their ancestors to be registered. Since Joseph and Mary traced their ancestry back to King David, they had to register in his birthplace of Bethlehem. It was a long, difficult journey, especially for Mary in her pregnant condition. As they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor. But they could not find any place to stay, so Mary gave birth in a shelter where animals were often kept. She wrapped her newborn baby in strips of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough. That night, as shepherds were caring for their sheep in a nearby field, an angel suddenly appeared and the same glory that had filled the Temple during the time of Moses (see #51 - February 20) flooded the field with light. God had come to take part in this amazing announcement! The shepherds were terrified, but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to bring you wonderful news! Today a Savior was born for you in Bethlehem! He is the Messiah you have been waiting for! And this is how you will know him—you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.” Suddenly the whole hillside was filled with angels who were praising God and saying, “Glory to God who lives in heaven! And peace to those who please Him on earth.” Then they disappeared. The shepherds hurried down the hillside and ran into Bethlehem. They found Mary and Joseph. And sure enough, there was the baby lying in a manger just as the angel had described. After gazing at the baby for a while, they began to share the wonderful news. They told everyone that an angel had appeared to them and had announced that this baby was the Messiah! The shepherds finally returned to their sheep praising God for everything they had heard and seen.
Shepherds were not very popular in their society. They were considered unclean— physically, socially, and spiritually. They were labeled as thieves, and nothing they said in a court of law was ever believed. So, if you were God, would you have chosen shepherds to be the first ones to receive the most important news ever given?! Would you have assigned them the task of sharing it with everyone else? Obviously, God completely disregards the cultural filters we use to judge other people. Are you willing to look at others through His eyes?