A Fresh Look at the First Christmas from the Free Faithlife Study Bible

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Each Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth and retell his origin story. But it’s hard to celebrate Christmas without also thinking about the reasons for Jesus’ birth and the world-changing events of his lifetime.

As Bob Coy explains in his devotional on Jesus’ humanity:

“The humanity of Jesus made Him completely relatable. None of us can accuse the Lord of not understanding what it is like to be human. From conception to resurrection, there is no phase of our existence that Jesus has not already walked through. He understood firsthand what it was like to get hungry, get sick, get betrayed, get tired, and get stung. He experienced the blistering heat of the day and the persistent chill of the night. Jesus knew what it felt like to experience all that is part of the human experience on earth.

Christ’s ability to completely relate to us was key in enabling Him to serve as our heavenly high priest, which is the role He now occupies. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus stands before God the Father, interceding on our behalf. And because Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be human, He understands our weaknesses and needs. Our plights truly touch His heart, and He perfectly intercedes for us according to our requirements because He has been where we find ourselves (Heb. 4:15).”

You can read the rest of this article in the study notes for Luke 2 in the Faithlife Study Bible, available to download free.

When he arrived, as one of us, we didn’t recognize him. He came to relate to us—to build a bridge between us and God—but we didn’t recognize him. In fact, the only space available for his birth was among the livestock. This image from the FSB study notes on Luke 2 helps us understand what his accommodations were like his first night on earth.

artist's depction of a First-Century Israelite House

 

From that first night, his life on earth never became comfortable. He lived among us, as one of us, for more than 33 years. He spent all that time caring for the poor and helping us better understand God’s heart. This infographic, found in the FSB study notes for Matthew 3, help us to visualize Jesus’ life. Life of Jesus illustrated timeline

Then, when the time was right, Jesus surrendered himself to the Jewish leadership, who had become jealous of his growing influence. They staged a mock trial and bribed witnesses to level false accusations, stirring a crowd into a riot. Though Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, could not find any fault with him, he sentenced Jesus to death in order to appease the crowd. The sentence was carried out immediately at a place called Golgotha, which means “place of the skull.” This picture of Golgotha appears in the FSB study notes for Matthew 27:33, alongside an explanation of why this location is most likely the site of Jesus’ death.picture of Golgotha from Faithlife Study Bible

Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha. He did it willingly. He did it for us. As Isaiah puts it, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Because he chose to come to earth and die in place of you and I, we can experience spiritual peace and freedom that we could never have achieved on our own.

clickable image reading New Christmas Devotional, Tidings of Comfort and Joy

He died for us, but of course, he didn’t stay dead. Three days after that terrible day on Golgotha, Jesus emerged from a sealed tomb, and over the course of 40 days, he appeared to hundreds of his followers—assuring each of them that death had not been able to contain him.

You can examine this in a table outlining the post-resurrection appearances of Christ in the FSB notes for Matthew 28:9.

In many ways, Christmas is an ironic holiday. We make special plans to be with our families to celebrate the incarnation—Jesus’ choice to leave his home (heaven) and his Father (God) to come to earth and save us from ourselves. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, which shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us that not everyone would mark the same holy days (Romans 14:5–6). But in my book, Christmas is the holiest of days because it foreshadows the easily forgotten gospel. Jesus did the work that we couldn’t possibly have done on our own. He was separated from God to make a way for us to be reconciled with God through him.

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To explore the story of the first Christmas and the life of Christ in a new way, download the free Faithlife Study Bible on your smartphone or tablet today.

May your Christmas be full of peace and joy.

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Written by
Ray Deck III

Born in WV, Ray escaped to North Carolina at a young age. He came to Logos after an 8 year stint at a faith-based nonprofit in New York. When he is not assembling sequences of words, he’s probably running, surfing or shooting skeet, but you should probably go look for him. He has a terrible sense of direction and is probably lost.

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Written by Ray Deck III