Familiarity not only breeds contempt, but also apathy. We have seen nativity scenes so often that we forget that the characters represent real people who teach us some important truths about God.
- Mary: God chooses those who are available (Luke 1:26-30).
While Mary is not to be worshipped, she is to be admired. For thousands of years, the world had been waiting for the Messiah, the Son of God who would come to take away the sin of the world. Of all the billions of women throughout history, God chose Mary partly because she was available.
Mary was also pure, a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Seven hundred years earlier the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) had declared that this Messiah would have to be born of a virgin—someone who was morally pure. Now that the time had come to fulfill that prophecy, God had to find someone who would meet that qualification.
Mary also believed God's Word. In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth says that Mary believed that there would be a fulfillment of what the angel had spoken—that she would miraculously conceive a child. God is always looking for people who have faith.
Mary placed the glory of God above her own reputation. For Mary to be used by God in this way meant that she had to quit caring what everyone else thought about her. When Mary heard what God's plan was for her she simply replied, “Let it be done according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary was also willing to sacrifice that which was most important to her (2 Chronicles 16:9). She knew that by allowing herself to be used by God in this way, she was risking her future relationship with Joseph. The Old Testament law was clear that if a girl had a sexual relationship with another man during this engagement or betrothal period, she was to be stoned to death. Mary was willing to sacrifice that which was most important to her because she wanted to be used by God.
To be a disciple of Christ requires that we be willing to give up everything for him—money, relationships, reputation, and even life.
- Joseph: God Honors Those Who are Obedient (Matthew 1:20, 24-25)
Without Joseph, this whole Christmas miracle would have never come to pass. One of the requirements for Messiah was that his father be a descendant of David. Although Joseph was not Jesus' biological father, he would be his legal father. So it was vitally important that Joseph and Mary be together and married when she gave birth to this baby.
During their engagement, Mary announced that she was pregnant and that the father of the baby was God. It is obvious from Matthew 1:18 that Joseph did not believe her story. He assumed that she had been unfaithful to him.
Joseph could have had her stoned to death—there were moments he probably wanted to. He chose to quietly end in the engagement and try to put the pieces of his broken life together. But God had a different plan (Matthew 1:20, 24-25).
Joseph's response here is a perfect illustration of the obedience God honors. Joseph did not understand the plan. He couldn't see the final outcome. But Joseph didn't let his confusion disrupt his obedience.
- The Shepherds: God uses those who are humble (Luke 2:8-16).
In Jewish society, Shepherds were beneath the bottom rung of the social ladder. They never got invited to parties. Their work usually kept them from participating in the Jewish religious rituals. So, why did God make this announcement to the shepherds? Because of their humility, their lack of pretense.
As soon as they heard about a savior, they dropped everything to see Him. The Shepherds were not religious people. Instead they were humble enough to realize their need for a Savior, and they did not allow their pride to keep them from running to Jesus.
- The Wise Men: God directs those who are sincere (Matthew 2:1-10).
The wise men were guided by a star. Those who are already Christians can look back to a time before you were saved when you were in spiritual darkness. And yet you genuinely wanted to know God. And He graciously sent you your own personal star—a friend, a teacher, a pastor, or a family member who guided you to Christ.
But for those who are not Christians, you are still searching. If, like the magi, your desire is to worship Him—He will send you a light to guide you. God said, "You will find me when you search for me with your whole heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
- Jesus: God saves those who believe (Matthew 1:21).
C.S. Lewis once said that the greatest miracle of all was not the atonement or the resurrection, but the miracle that made it all possible—the incarnation. The name “Jesus” comes from the Old Testament name Joshua, meaning The Lord Saves. Jesus came for one purpose and one purpose only—to die for our sins.
When the wise men came, they brought Him gold, symbolizing His deity; frankincense, symbolizing His purity; and myrrh, a substance used in embalming.
Jesus was born to die. That is what His name means. And His name reminds us that there is no other way to be saved.