12 Christmas Characters: Joseph

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Joseph was a descendent of King David, a carpenter by trade, & from the town of Nazareth. He was engaged/betrothed to Mary. When he heard that she was pregnant, he wanted to quietly break off the marriage. But before he actually did so, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said:

Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20, 21)

The Bible says, Joseph got up and took Mary as his wife. They did not sleep together until after the baby was born. It is notable that the Bible says once the baby was born, Joseph was the one to name him Jesus. I thought this showed how Joseph was Jesus' earthly father even though Jesus is God. 

Surprisingly, Joseph had 3 more dreams which told him crucial things for the safety of his family. The second dream an angel instructed Joseph to "get up and take Mary and the baby to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus." Joseph immediately awoke, got Mary and Jesus and they travelled by night to Egypt.

In the third dream, an angel told Joseph that Herod had died and they could now return to Israel. So Joseph got up and took Mary and Jesus to the land of Israel. However, Joseph was afraid of Herod's son. Having been warned in another dream, Joseph took his family to Nazareth.

Each time Joseph was given instructions in his dreams, he immediately awoke and did what he was instructed. I love his obedient and willing spirit. The amazing thing is that each dream fulfilled prophecies about Jesus' life that had been foretold long ago. Joseph is a great example of a godly man who willingly submitted to the Lord's direction in his and his family's lives.   

To read the story of Joseph, visit Matthew 1:18-25 & Matthew 2:13-23

12 Christmas Characters: Wise Men

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Three wise men are mentioned in the story of Jesus' birth. Wise men were also known as Magi. They were very smart men and studied star movements. When Jesus was born a special star shone in the sky. The wise men came looking for the star they had seen in the East.

After travelling for some time, they came to speak to Herod, the king of Judea. They asked Herod:

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him (Matthew 2:2)

The way the wise men posed their question shows us they knew Jesus was the King of the Jews. Author Henrietta C. Mears indicated the book of Matthew was written from the standpoint that Jesus was a King and had the lineage of one. This is why Matthew recorded the wise men visiting Jesus. 

Once the Wise men left Herod, they found Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Matthew writes that they bowed and worshipped Jesus. They also brought Jesus 3 gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were gifts one would give a king, a priest and one who was to be buried. Jesus was all of these things.  

Even though Herod wanted them to come back and tell him where they had found Jesus, the wise men were warned in a dream to not return to him. Instead, they went home a different way. I love that the wise men knew Jesus was the promised King.

To read this for yourself, visit Matthew 2:1-12

12 Christmas Characters: Angels

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Angels visited many of the characters in the Christmas story. The angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and Mary. An unnamed angel visited Joseph. A host of angels also visited the shepherds. Angels were clearly God's messengers to humans before he sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

I love the message the host of angels brought to the shepherds. One angel made an introduction and told the shepherds to fear not. He also delivered the news the Savior had been born and they could find the baby in a stable. Once he said this, a "great company" of angels appeared and they praised God and said:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests (Luke 2:14)

As I was writing this post, I was struck by the second part of their message. God's favor rests on mankind. Wow. What a remarkable message: the goodwill, kindness, and approval of God is on man. How can we respond to such news? We can know that He cares about us. It is in this precision, He sent Jesus to be our Savior. All we have to do is open our hearts and believe the message the angels brought, the Savior of the World was born!

For more on this story, see Luke 2:9-14

12 Christmas Characters: Shepherds

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

As Mary and Joseph were taking care of their newborn baby, shepherds were in the fields nearby doing what they do: taking care of sheep. It is surprising that God saw fit to send angels to visit shepherds and tell them about the birth of Jesus. They were just normal, everyday working-class people. We can only imagine what it would have been like to have been a shepherd in the field that night.

"I just finished counting all the sheep, Joe."

"Want some stew?"

"Sure thing, Pete! I'm famished."

*ANGELS APPEAR*

An angel said, "Do not be afraid, I'm here to tell you about the great news that is for all people."

Shepherds thinking... "How could we not be afraid? We were just out here in the dark and now the field is lit up and there are lots of angels!"

The angel continued, "A Savior was born today in the little town of David. You will find him in a stable and his blankets will be like rags."

Once all of the angels left, the shepherds said, "Let's go see this new baby that the Lord told us about!"

The shepherds went and visited Jesus. Once they saw him in the stable, they began telling everyone about his birth. Everyone who heard their story was amazed that the Savior was born! The shepherds were excited about all they had heard from the angels and what they had seen.

Obviously, I've written what I think would have been going on in the shepherds' minds. The point I'm trying to make is that God chose to tell common people about Jesus. This is pivotal in the way Jesus lived and taught. He came to save all people, not just religious or important ones. Specifically appearing to shepherds, shows us that He indeed cares about all of us no matter our place in society.  

For the actual story visit: Luke 2:8-20

12 Christmas Characters: Herod

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Herod was the king of Judea. Three wise men came to visit him to ask where they could find the baby who had been born. You see, when Jesus was a born, a special star shone in the sky. The wise men were star watchers and noticed the new star.

After they asked Herod where the baby was, he gathered all of the chief priests and teachers of the Law together to ask where the Messiah would be born. They answered and quoted Isaiah, the prophet: he would be born in Bethlehem, part of the land of Judea. Herod dismissed the priests and teachers. Secretly, Herod asked the wise men to come back after they found Jesus and tell him where he was. He told them he wanted to worship Jesus too. 

The wise men (we'll look at them next week) were warned in a dream to not go back to Herod. Instead, they went home a different way. When Herod found they left without returning to him, he was incredibly angry. He ordered all boys in Bethlehem, under the age of 2, to be killed.

Herod's plan of killing all the baby boys was so that he could kill the Messiah. Herod's response to Jesus was fear. He was afraid Jesus would someday overthrow his kingdom and rule. Thankfully the wise men did not go back to Herod. This made me wonder if there are any areas of my life where I am fearful and how might that fear effect others around me?

See Matthew 2 for more details on King Herod.

12 Christmas Characters: John

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

John was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Gabriel had told John's parents that they would have him in their old ages. Gabriel said John was not to drink wine or beer as the Holy Spirit's power would be with him from birth.

Sure enough, when Mary visited Elizabeth, John leaped in her womb! When John was born, Zechariah was again able to speak. Zechariah told all of their friends and family that his name would be John. Interestingly, all of their friends and family were were frightened because of what had happened with Zechariah. But, the Bible says, they all knew that the Lord would be with John!

The primary focus of John's life was preparing the people for the Messiah. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. He lived in the desert until God told him it was time to tell the people about Jesus.

John's message was simple: prepare your hearts for the Lord by being baptized and repenting of sin. The amazing thing is that John's message was foretold by the prophet Isaiah many, many years before John was born!

You can read more about John in: Luke 1 and Luke 3

12 Christmas Characters: Anna

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Anna was a prophetess and was waiting to see the Messiah. She was married for only 7 years before her husband died and she became a widow. The Bible says that day and night she worshipped, fasted and prayed at the temple. The temple in those days was very similar to a church.

At the time that Joseph and Mary brought their baby, Jesus, to the temple, she was at least 84 years old. When she saw baby Jesus, she praised God. She then began telling everyone that He was the one they had hoped for and Jesus was the one who would redeem Jerusalem.

I hope it can be said of me that I worshipped God all the time and that I told everyone that Jesus came to save us. What a great truth to think about, Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer! 

You can read this story in: Luke 2:36-38

12 Christmas Characters: Simeon

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Simeon was a righteous and devout man. The Lord had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On the day that Joseph and Mary took Jesus to be circumcised (according to the laws of Moses), the Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple that day.

When Simeon saw Jesus, he took him in his arms and blessed God. He said he could now die in peace knowing that the Messiah had come to save the Jews. Not only did he mention Jesus' ability to save the Jews, he said that salvation would also come to Gentiles. This was unheard of in those days. Gentiles are all of us that are not Jewish. Simeon had truly received wisdom from God regarding Jesus.

Simeon also blessed Joseph and Mary. They were both amazed at the things he said Jesus would do. Simeon foretold that Jesus would save people, but that many would also reject Him. He told Mary that her heart would be pierced through with a sword*.

How amazing that God kept his promise to Simeon to let him see the Messiah before he died. And what great wisdom he had that he said Jesus would bring salvation to the Jews and the Gentiles.

*I looked at many different translations of this section and I believe that what he meant about the sword is figurative, not literal. As she stood at the cross, 33 years later, I can only imagine the pain she went through regarding Jesus' death.

For the actual account visit: Luke 2:25-35

12 Christmas Characters: Gabriel

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and Mary (the mother of Jesus). Something I find interesting about Gabriel was that he would greeted both of them separately and told them not to be afraid. It makes me wonder if he was a large being that they needed reassurance to trust him. 

Gabriel was sent by God to bring a message to Zechariah. I love that Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and foretold that he and Elizabeth would have a baby. Gabriel even shared what the baby's name would be (John) and all of the great things he would do to prepare the way for Jesus. He told Zechariah the good news that people would turn to the Lord.

Mary also received a visit from Gabriel. This time, he brought the message that she was highly favored and the Lord was with her. Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God and she would give birth to a son. Her son's name would be Jesus, he would be called the Son of the Most High. When Mary asked how this would happen, Gabriel told her the Holy Spirit would come upon her and power from the Most High would overshadow her. He then told her that her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a child in her old age. 

To me, the most memorable thing Gabriel spoke to either of these people was that "nothing is impossible with God."

(You can read the rest of the story in Luke 1)

12 Christmas Characters: Elizabeth

Welcome! In light of the holiday season, I wanted to share the Christmas story, but I didn't want to look at in the traditional way. Christmas isn't about Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is about the birth of Jesus. By Christmas Eve, I will focus on 12 people surrounding Jesus' birth and their role in the story. I welcome your thoughts and hope to express why I love Christmas so much.

Elizabeth was the wife of Zechariah. This elderly couple was told they would have a baby in their old age. Once Elizabeth found out she was expecting, she stayed secluded in their home for 5 months. She said that the Lord had done a miracle and had shown his favor by taking her disgrace away.

In these days, being barren was considered a curse. Elizabeth was older and had probably given up hoping she would ever have a child. However, God had a different plan!

Mary would end up coming to Zechariah & Elizabeth's home to visit. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth's baby (John) leaped inside her womb. Elizabeth was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit. She said that Mary was blessed among women because the baby she would bear would be her Lord. Elizabeth was honored to have Mary visit and encouraged Mary during her 3 month stay.

Elizabeth recognized, without Mary telling her, that the baby Mary would have would be the Messiah and He would be her Lord. Elizabeth responded to the birth of Jesus with acceptance, encouragement and belief in God's plans. (You can read the actual story in Luke 1).