A Call to Stand Apart


Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” AC 13.1

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25. AC 13.2

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” AC 13.3

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child: and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-20. AC 13.4

The promise that Jesus would come as our Savior had been made in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve first heard it, they expected a quick fulfillment. So when they held their firstborn son in their arms, they both hoped he would be the Redeemer. But that was not to be. Thousands of years later, as God’s appointed time came, Jesus left heaven to be born in Bethlehem.2The Desire of Ages, 31, 32. AC 14.1

In becoming human, Jesus demonstrated ultimate humility. On earth His physical surroundings were primitive. He hid His glory from those who saw Him and shunned all outward display. The angels marveled at such a plan of redemption and watched to see how the people of God would receive His Son.3Ibid., 43. AC 14.2

The Roman decree to register everyone in the vast empire extended to the humble people living in the hills of Galilee. Angels watched over Joseph and Mary as they journeyed from their home in Nazareth south to Bethlehem. When the two arrived in Bethlehem, weary and homeless, they walked the length of the main street, from the gate of the city to the eastern end of the town, seeking a place to spend the night. But there was no room for them anywhere! Finally, in a crude animal shelter, they found a place to lie down, and Mary gave birth to her son, the Redeemer of the world.4Ibid., 44. AC 14.3

Above the hills of Bethlehem an immense throng of angels had gathered for this moment, and at His birth they began to sing this great news to the world. Unfortunately, the religious leadership in Israel, ignoring their destiny, did not share in the celebration.5Ibid., 47. AC 14.4

In the same fields where David once cared for his father’s flocks, shepherds guarded their sheep through the night. They had been talking of the promised Savior and praying for His coming. Then suddenly an angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10, 11, NIV. The whole area was lighted up with the brightness of the angels.6Ibid., 47, 48. AC 15.1

When the angels disappeared, the light faded away, and darkness returned to the hills around Bethlehem. But the brightest picture ever seen by human eyes remained in the memory of the shepherds. When they regained their composure, they said, “‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:15, 16, NIV.7Ibid., 48. AC 15.2

Heaven and earth are no wider apart today than when shepherds heard the angels’ song. And each of us now, as the shepherds then, is the object of God’s most intense love and interest.8Ibid. AC 15.3

The story of Bethlehem is a fantastic theme. We should marvel that Jesus exchanged the throne of heaven and the worship of angels for a manger bed and the company of sheep and goats. Yet this was only the beginning of the evidence of His great love. It would have been the ultimate humiliation for Jesus to take Adam’s nature, even when he stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by millennia of sin. Like every other human baby, He accepted the results of the laws of heredity so He would be able to share and understand our disappointments and temptations, and to give us the example of what it means to live a perfect life.9Ibid., 48, 49 AC 15.4