Saturday, December 23, 2017

Birth of Jesus: Trinity Incarnate

As we have seen in earlier posts, God prescribed patterns of worship in the Old Testament, including feasts, to reflect His Trinity. Thousands of years later, New Testament worship continued to honor God’s Triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship of God the Son began when Jesus was in Mary’s womb and continued through His infancy and early childhood. Patterns of three continued to be evident in this early worship and in the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.

When Jesus Christ left His heavenly throne, He wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14) so that we could behold His glory. As foretold in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9 23-24), man was not to glory in his own wisdom, power, or wealth, but in God’s love, judgment, and righteousness. In the person of Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, were these three sources of glory fulfilled.

Before Jesus was born, three persons (Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph) crucial to His earthly life were visited by an angel who revealed their special roles in the birth of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel appeared to the old priest Zacharias to tell him that Elizabeth, his barren and aged wife, would give birth to John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the chosen Messiah (Luke 1:7-19).

Then Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to tell her that God had chosen her to give birth to the promised Savior, conceived by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:26-35). The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary had conceived the Messiah by the Holy Spirit, and that he should marry her as planned (Matthew 1:20-21).

Even before Jesus was born, the first worship service of three congregants (Mary, Elizabeth, and John) honoring Him took place! Jesus later said that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, God was in their midst (Matthew 18:20), and this was literally the case on this occasion!

This happy meeting occurred when Mary arrived at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit allowed both women and the unborn John the Baptist to recognize the unborn Jesus as their Lord and Savior. John was filled with the Holy Ghost while still in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15), and when Mary entered the room, John leaped for joy to be in the presence of Jesus! (Luke 1:41-45). At the same moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and she proclaimed aloud that Mary and her unborn Babe – her Lord -- were blessed indeed.

Mary responded with a hymn of praise (known as the Magnificat) inspired by the Holy Spirit, exalting God and His Son, the Messiah Who would deliver them (Luke 1:46-55), The Bible does not say that Mary sang this hymn, but because of its poetic format, I believe it is reasonable to assume that she sang it, just as the Psalms were sung to praise God. This first praise and worship service honoring Jesus therefore incorporated three expressions of praise: dance, spoken praise (prayer), and song!

At and shortly after Jesus’ birth, He was worshipped by three groups of beings: the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men. The glory of God lit up the heavens, the angel of the Lord announced His birth, and a multitude of angels sang sweet anthems of praise and adoration (Luke 2:8-14).

The glory of God described here may have been one of three reappearances of the Shechinah Glory (the glory of God that filled the Old Testament tabernacle; Exodus 40:34-38) surrounding the birth of Jesus. At the time of His birth, the brilliance of God’s glory shone in the heavens surrounding the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:9), in the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12) and in the person of Jesus Himself (John 1:14).

When the apostle John refers to man beholding the glory of God dwelling among us (John 1:14), the word for “dwell” is similar to the word in Exodus 40 referring to the tabernacle, thus strengthening the reference to the Shechinah Glory filling the Old Testament tabernacle and then tabernacling among us as the fully divine Man. That prophecy was foretold by Isaiah 9:2 and revealed more completely in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 1 Peter 16:18).

The shepherds, who in that culture were considered to be vagabonds of ill-repute, represent saved sinners who repented (abandoned what they were doing once they heard the Good News), ran to worship Him, and witnessed to others of what they had seen (Luke 2:15-17-18).

The wise men (Matthew 2:1-12), who were the most learned scholars of their day in the fields of astronomy, science, and philosophy, sought and found Truth not in their parchments and scrolls, but in a young Child Who knew all things.

The three gifts brought by the wise men to worship and honor Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, representing His three roles in our salvation. Gold is the most precious metal, fit for the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16); frankincense the most costly spice, suited to burn in worship of the great High Priest after the order of Melchisidec (Hebrews 5:6, 10); and myrrh is used to anoint the dead (John 19:39), representing that He came to die as the perfect, sinless Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14) to pay our sin debt.

Included in the wise people who worshipped the young child Jesus were not only these kingly scholars, but also Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), as these faithful Jews recognized Him as the promised Messiah Who would deliver their people. May we too have their wisdom to seek God, find Him, and give our lives to Him!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives


Brenda said...

Amen to what you have said Laurie.
I wish people would speak more of Jesus and God's purpose in sending Him to earth at this time of year when the opportunity is there to reach many who do not know Him. Unfortunately, for so many weeks at this time of year the focus is upon Santa and the opportunity for businesses to sell expensive products.
There is nothing wrong with people giving one another gifts at any time of the year, but when the opportunity is missed to share the gospel of salvation to so many people it is very sad.
God bless you Laurie as you share that opportunity.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Brenda,
Christmas and Easter (and perhaps Mother's and Father's Day) are perhaps the only occasions unsaved people may come to church. May we as Christians use these as a special opportunity to share the Gospel, as you have said. May we bear Christ to the world and share His love with others.
Thanks as always for your insightful comment, and God bless you too!

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I have always found the Nativity Story to be very moving, even throughout my teenage years and long before my conversion. This I suppose was the fact that I knew something about Jesus Christ even in my youth, and even from boyhood I wanted to enjoy such friendship with him. But the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church had badly distorted his character to the extent that by the time I reached teenage years, I hated him.
This highlights the joy arising from proper worship of the Truth contrasting by the spiritual devastation brought on by false doctrine, especially in the area of salvation and how it is attained.
But having said that, I have always been awestruck with the response of John, still as an unborn fetus, leaping with joy at Mary whose offspring is barely in embryonic form. And one day you, me, and every believer will leap for joy at the sight of Jesus enthroned in Heaven.
Wishing you and your husband a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I love the story of the unborn John leaping for joy at the presence of His Savior, for he was anointed with the Spirit even in His mother's womb. It should silence all proponents of abortion, but sadly it does not.
May we keep looking up for His second coming and that glorious moment when we see Him face to face and experience the joy of being with Him throughout eternity!
Merry Christmas to you and yours and all blessings in 2018 and beyond! May this be the year that we meet with Him and one another in the air!
God bless,