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11

God, in Our Neighborhood

Key References: Luke 2:1-40; The Desire of Ages, chaps. 4 and 5, pp. 43-58; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 7, pp. 35-46; Our Beliefs, nos. 4, 9, 3

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“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

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Jesus was born as a human being to help us understand God’s character of love.

What was something you studied in school that was particularly difficult to understand? And then, one day, a friend or a special teacher explained it so clearly that you could never forget it? That is what happened when God the Son became a human baby and came to live among us to help us better understand the love of God.

It was nighttime. All was quiet. A gentle breeze blew across the fields where sheep were grazing. Stars shone brightly in the sky. Only the voices of a few shepherds could be heard as they talked of their hope in the coming Messiah.

With deep interest they recalled the words of the prophets about the promised King who would sit on the throne of David. It seemed that the time was near, according to the prophecies found in the Holy Scriptures. The shepherds continued talking with intense anticipation about the important event that was about to happen soon. They were sure that it wouldn’t be long before God would send the Messiah to free them from the Roman oppression. They were hoping that the Messiah would take charge and save them from their enemies. Once again they earnestly raised their hearts to God in prayer for the promised Messiah.

But suddenly their talk was interrupted as the night sky began to glow around them—a glow so bright that the entire field seemed to come alive with a strange and beautiful light. They were terrified as an angel suddenly appeared before them and spoke: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

As soon as the angel had spoken, another sound filled the air. It was the most beautiful music they had ever heard. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” the voices sang (verse 14). A throng of angels had come to share in telling the good news of Jesus’ birth.

Suddenly the light disappeared as quickly as it had come. Once again, all was quiet and dark. The shepherds, at first stunned, began to speak all at once. Could it be? What could that mean? The city of David? That was Bethlehem! With one accord they decided to go to Bethlehem to see the Child that the angel had told them about. Quickly they made their way to find the special Baby.

When the shepherds arrived at Bethlehem, they soon found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, just as the angel had told them. What a sight! There in an animal shelter, in a feeding trough stuffed with hay, lay the most precious Baby ever to be born. When they saw Jesus, they could hardly contain their joy.

The next morning they spread the word throughout the town. The shepherds’ announcement, brought with great enthusiasm, drew the attention and interest of the people. Everyone who heard the report of the shepherds was moved and pondered in amazement the significance of the marvelous news.

Eight days later, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus for the special dedication and circumcision ceremony, they named Him Jesus, just as they had been told to do. Then, when the time came (about 40 days after His birth), Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him and to offer a sacrifice. There, the priest took the Child and laid Him on the altar. Then he recorded the name “Jesus” in the book where the names of every firstborn son were written. But little did the priest know that the Baby he held in his arms that day was the special One—the Messiah—whom God had sent to save the world.

There were two people there, however, who did recognize Jesus. One of them, Simeon, held Jesus up and said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (verses 34, 35).

Have you recognized Jesus? One reason He came as a human baby, and “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 , Message), was so that we could better understand God’s character of love.