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Where does the story of Jesus begin?

Excerpts for "Bethlehem Revisited" by Alvin N. Rogness

Did it begin with...

  • Bethlehem?

  • The announcement by the angel Gabriel?

  • The angel Gabriel to Mary?

  • The angel's appearance to Zechariah, telling him that he would yet father a son who will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah?

  • Or does the story start far back in the dim Genesis beginnings when God -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- created the world?

The promise of a Messiah or Savior was repeated many times through the centuries, and [many of] the people of Israel lived in expectation of that fulfillment.

We might begin with Zechariah as the immediate prelude to Christ's coming, for it was to this old priest that the angel promised a son, John the Baptist] who would prepare the way for the Messiah's coming.

Soon after his appearance to Zechariah, the angel Gabriel appeared to a young girl, Mary, in the small town of Nazareth. The angel told Mary,

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High... and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Mary's response to the angel has echoed down the centuries as a fitting word for anyone called of God: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word."

Before leaving her, the angel informed Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, was to have a child. So "Mary arose and went with haste to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." To go from Nazareth to Judah in those days was a long and tedious, even perilous journey....

When she arrived she greeted Elizabeth with the news of the angelic visit... "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

When, three months later, Mary returned to Nazareth, Elizabeth gave birth to John. His father Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, said of him: "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways."

Now to Bethlehem. Micah, the prophet, had foretold the importance of the town in the words, "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days."

There were other clues. Born in Bethlehem, the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David.... He would be born of a virgin. ... Perhaps no words in all Christendom have inspired such tenderness and even awe as this simple account by Luke:

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city 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 enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

"And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 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 in the inn."

Note added by Berit: The story of Jesus -- as documented in the Bible -- began in Genesis 1. Then, in Genesis 3, we again see the plan and power of our heavenly Father and Son. But here it points to a judgment that began long before the birth of Jesus as man and Redeemer..

Excerpts for "Bethlehem Revisited" by Alvin N. Rogness [Christmas: An American Annual of Christmas Literature and Art, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pp. 14-15.

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