Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have You Considered This at Christmas?


     Whenever I get my Christmas ornaments out, I don’t just see a pretty decoration. I see something with a special story behind it. On my tree you may see a white Styrofoam ball with a green glitter tree and the name Ruth in red glitter with a pipe cleaner to hold the hook. However, when I see that, I see a little 7 year old girl, sitting at her desk in an old fashioned schoolroom, trying to make the Elmer’s glue come out just right. When I see the ornaments that look like badly crafted stained glass, I see the first year we had all 3 girls and no money and not enough ornaments for the tree. I still see their faces as we put lots of colorful, though not that pretty, ornaments on the tree.

     So come with me to see something more behind the manger scene that we take out at Christmas…..

     To start with, I want to give you all a few reminders. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem . John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Peter talked about our redemption in 1 Peter 1:19 as the “Precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

     In the Old Testament, the lamb was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin. It had to be a lamb without blemish or spot – it couldn’t be scarred or cut or bruised. Jesus died in Jerusalem , where the temple was and where the lambs were sacrificed.
The story of Christmas has Christ born in a manger as the Lamb of God, to be the Saviour of the world and to take away the sins of the world. This would involve sacrifice. Bethlehem cannot be understood without Calvary . The manger must be seen in the light of the Cross. Birth would also involve death.

     We all know the Christmas story from Luke:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lordcame upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them. (Luke 2:8-20)

     Have you ever wondered who these shepherds were? Has anyone ever wondered why the angels didn’t give them any more details of where to look? No street sign, no neon light, no flag…

     The Christmas story takes on added meaning when we consider that, according to multiple writings of rabbis, the shepherds who were abiding by their flocks in the fields were perhaps watching over temple sheep, sheep that were being bred and protected to be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem. These shepherds may have been men who were accustomed to preparing lambs which symbolically represented the Messiah in their cleanliness, perfection, and their sacrifice on the altar of the temple. This gives added depth of meaning to these scriptures which tell of the angels who came to these shepherds to proclaim the birth of the Lamb of God, the Savior of mankind, who would offer the last and ultimate sacrifice.

     With the establishment of Temple worship in Jerusalem , the fields outside of Bethlehem became the place where this special group of shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . The place where the angels appeared to the shepherds is traditionally known as the “Tower of the Flock,” or Migdal Edar, which is very near Bethlehem . This watch tower from ancient times was used by the shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts. It was the place ewes were brought to give birth to the lambs. In this sheltered building/cave the priests would bring in the ewes which were about to lamb for protection. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task. Being themselves under special Rabbinical care, they would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean stable for a birthing place.   It could have been to this place that Joseph took Mary. It could have been in this special stable at “Migdal Eder” that Christ was born!

     These shepherds were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished. The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes to protect the body of the lambs, keeping the new lambs without spot or bruise, they would then be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.

    These lambs would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just four miles away in Jerusalem.

     There was no need for the angels to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. These were the men who raised sacrificial lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, for the sign of a manger and swaddling coths could only mean THEIR manger at the tower of the flock!

     The Lamb born at Migdal Eder was the Lamb to be sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.

     You see our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem where all sacrificial lambs were born, and our Lord Jesus died in Jerusalem where all sacrificial lambs were killed.

    So when you look at a nativity set this year, and you see the shepherds and Mary and Joseph and then you see the baby wrapped in swaddling cothes lying in a manger, I hope you’ll think of the story behind it. And I hope Christmas will touch you a little deeper this year.

(This is a compliation of the following sites:http://www.mayimhayim.org/Rabbi%20Mike/Migdal%20Eder.htm,
)

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Longview, Texas
In the autumn of my life, I am very content.

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