Week 36: The Birth of Jesus Christ
Weekly memory verse:
Psalm 100:1–2 – “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”
“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” (free download)
Since you have been saved by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of your own, why must you yet do good works?
I must do good works because Christ also renews me by his Holy Spirit to be his image, so that I might show thankfulness to God for his mercy.
Day 176: Worship the Lord Who Reigns
Reading: Psalms 99–101
Psalm 99, Verse 1. Upon the cherubim. This is a reference to the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.
Verse 5. Footstool. A metaphor for the temple in Jerusalem, the place of God’s earthly presence and reign.
Psalm 101, Verse 2. When will you come to me? This is a pleading for God’s active work in David’s rule over Israel.
The Lord reigns sovereignly over all things. His rule is always just and right, continually displaying his steadfast, faithful love to his people. What a privilege it is for God’s people to worship this faithful, sovereign God. Recognition of this reality should cause us to live faithfully before him out of gratitude and praise to him.
- What does it mean that the Lord reigns?
- What should be our response to the faithful reign of God?
- What does it mean to “walk with integrity of heart” (Psalm 101:2)?
Day 177: The Birth of John the Baptist
Reading: Luke 1:5–80
Verse 5. Herod. This is Herod the Great, the first in a line of Herods named in Scripture. He is probably Idumean, a descendent of Esau’s line, the Edomites. Division of Abijah. The priesthood was separated into 24 divisions, each of which served twice a year (1 Chr. 24:4–19).
Verse 9. Burn incense. Only a select few priests were allowed to enter the temple; since the altar of incense, just in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies, was kept burning at all times, a priest was chosen to enter every morning and evening to offer the incense.
Verse 31. Jesus. The name means “Savior.”
Verse 36. Your relative. Since Mary was a descended of David (3:23–28), and Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron (1:5), they must have been related through Mary’s mother, who apparently was a descendent of Aaron.
Verse 46. Mary said. Verses 46–55 are known as Mary’s “Magnificat” after the first word in the Latin translation. This is one of the oldest biblical songs (called Canticles) that continued to be sung later in the church.
Verse 47. My Savior. Mary recognized her own sinfulness and need for salvation through her Son.
Verse 68. Blessed. Verses 68–79 is another song traditionally sung in the church, known as the “Benedictus.”
Prophesies concerning the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus break into what had been silence from God since the time of Israel’s return to Israel from captivity. God was now beginning to fulfill the promises that he had made to his people long ago concerning bringing them salvation. John the Baptist preceded the Messiah as a prophet of old.
- Why do you think God chose to deliver the news about John the Baptist to Zechariah in the temple?
- What does Mary’s Magnificat reveal about her?
- How do both Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s Benedictus connect Old Testament prophesies to what was beginning to happen?
Day 178: The Birth of Jesus Christ
Reading: Luke 2:1–38
Verse 1. Caesar Augustus. This is Caius Octavius, the heir of Julias Caesar. Octavius came to power as the first emperor of Rome in 44 bc. His reign over the entire Mediterranean region ushered in a great Pax Romana—a period of peace in the empire.
Verse 3. Own town. Each head of household had to return to the place of his tribe’s origin for the census.
Verse 7. Manger. A feeding trough for animals. Where, exactly, Jesus was born is not stated explicitly in Scripture. He may have been born in a cave that was used to shelter animals.
Verse 8. Shepherds. Shepherds tended grazing sheep in the area all year round to provide sacrifices for the temple in nearby Jerusalem, so it is impossible to determine the time of year Jesus was born simply from this fact.
Verse 11. Christ. The Greek equivalent to “Messiah.”
Verse 14. Glory to God. This is the third canticle in Luke’s gospel that has traditionally been sung by Christians since the early church.
Verse 29. Now . . . depart. Known as the Nunc Dimittis from the Latin translation of these words, this is the fourth Lucan canticle.
After thousands of years of prophesy, God’s promised Messiah finally came to earth in the most unexpected form—a baby. All of God’s predictions concerning this coming were perfectly fulfilled including being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). This was no ordinary baby, however; he would become the salvation of his people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles.
- Why was it important that Jesus be of the tribe of Judah and born in Bethlehem?
- What does the angel’s song (Gloria) reveal about Christ’s coming?
- What does Simeon’s song (Nunc Dimittis) reveal about Christ’s coming?
Day 179: The Visit of the Magi
Reading: Matthew 2:1–23; Psalm 102
Matthew 2, Verse 1. Wise men. These “magi” were probably magicians or astrologers from Persia. Although three gifts are mentioned later, the number of magi is not indicated in the text.
Verse 2. Star. This could have been something natural that God providentially used to guide the magi or a supernatural occurrence.
Verse 11. House. By now Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had moved into a house in Bethlehem, likely waiting for both mother and child to grow stronger before traveling. This may have occurred shortly after Jesus’s birth or up to two years later (see v. 16).
Verse 15. Death of Herod. This was likely 4 bc. The family may have been in Egypt for a short time before being free to return.
The events of Jesus’s birth and early life continue to fulfill Old Testament prophesy concerning the Messiah including the fact that he would be worshiped by Gentiles (Ps 72:10) and that children would die during this time (Jer 31:15). God miraculously protected his Son and his earthly family.
- Why do you think God led the magi to Jesus?
- What did the gifts of the magi signify about who they thought Jesus was?
- In what ways do these events fulfill Old Testament prophecies?
Day 180: Jesus in the Temple
Reading: Luke 2:40–52; Psalm 103
Luke 2, Verse 42. Twelve years old. One year prior to a boy’s bar mitzvah, which would occur on his thirteenth birthday, he would participate in the Jewish feasts as part of his preparation.
Verse 49. My Father’s house. This indicates that even at this young age, Jesus knew who he was and the mission his Father had given him to accomplish.
Verse 51. Was submissive. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law from the time he was born, which enabled him to impute righteousness to sinners who believe in him.
When the Son of God came to earth, he did not give up his divinity, but he did truly take on human flesh. He grew and matured just like any other boy, and he fulfilled all that the Law required of a Jewish boy, including visited Jerusalem, celebrating Jewish festivals, learning the Torah, and even obeying his parents. This all prepared him to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of his people.
- Why did Jesus go to Jerusalem?
- Was Jesus being disobedient to his parents by remaining in Jerusalem? How do you know?
- What did Jesus’s response to Mary reveal about him?