A Savior Is Born
“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6
“Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” John 7:42
As God’s people waited for the coming of the Savior God had promised, they had many detailed prophecies, which indicated how and where he would arrive. It had long been known from prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the city where David, Israel’s greatest king, had been born and anointed king. God promised that the anointed one would be a descendant of King David and would come from Bethlehem.
The Humble King
Even though Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, lived in Nazareth, far from Bethlehem, they had to travel to Bethlehem to be registered in the census:
“All went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn.” Luke 2:3–7
So, in an unexpected way, God fulfilled his promise that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, a fitting birthplace for the one who would succeed David as the greatest King of Israel.
Though he was the King, Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances—into an animal’s feed trough—because his parents could not afford lodging. This reminds us of the humility of the Son of God revealed in his Incarnation.
The Word Became Flesh
“Incarnation” means “becoming flesh.” It explains how the Son, the second person of the Trinity, entered into human history in the flesh as the God-man, Jesus Christ. This central belief of the Christian faith is taught clearly in Scripture: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
One of the church’s best theologians, John Calvin, says that the Incarnation is God’s supreme act of divine accommodation to us. According to Calvin, God accommodated to human weakness through humbling himself in the Incarnation: “God would remain absolutely hidden if we were not illuminated by the brightness of Christ.” We would never be able to know God if not for Christ serving as our mediator: “For he assumed the character of Mediator in order to approach to us by descending from the bosom and incomprehensible glory of his Father.”
God Is With Us
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly promised: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. I will live among them and walk among them.” Christ is the fulfillment of God’s desire to dwell among his people. This is why Jesus was called “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us.”