By now the presents are all opened, torn wrapping paper is in the trash, and some have begun dismantling the tree and storing all the ornaments for next year. But the reason for Christmas is not over, for the lyrics of Josiah Holland remind us that … “There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth, for the Virgin’s sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth. Ay! The star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger in Bethlehem cradles a King!” The angelic announcement to shepherds soon spread throughout the countryside as these keepers of the temple flock made their way to Bethlehem.
Scripture tells us that … “the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:15b-18 KJV). God had chosen to announce the birth of the Savior to men whose work was considered lowly, rather than to the religious leaders who considered their man-made traditions of greater importance than the Hebrew Scriptures.
These shepherds must have known of Isaiah’s prophecy given centuries before and believed it … “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isa 9:6a KJV). All who heard the shepherd’s report wondered at what they said. Scripture does not reveal how long the manger served as a lodging place after the Savior’s birth, but we know that many months later wise men arrived from the east … “and when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt 2:11 KJV). Were these rulers, whose gifts sustained Joseph’s family possibly for a year or more, believers whose forefathers in Persia had heard of the God of Israel through Daniel?
Perhaps these kings had heard of the coming Savior from reading the Old Testament scroll which recorded Balaam’s prophecy … “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17 KJV). Prophecies concerning a Savior–Messiah were a central focus of Old Testament prophets. The Apostle Peter in his first epistle mentions … “of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you” (1 Peter 1:10-11 KJV). Though God’s messengers could not predict the day of Jesus’ birth, they were well aware of where it would occur for Micah stated … “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic 5:2 KJV).
Furthermore, those who had studied Daniel’s prophecy knew that … “Seventy weeks [of seven years] are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Dan 9:24 KJV). It was now the sixty-ninth week since the order to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem had been issued by Cyrus, King of Persia. Thus, all who knew the Scriptures “wondered” with joy. God had fulfilled His promise of a Savior. Christ had come into the world so that mankind could have eternal life by believing that He died for our sins, was buried and rose again.