6 Surprising Christmas Facts You Thought You Knew


6 Surprising Facts About the First Christmas

  1. The Wise Men Came Later. It is generally agreed upon that the wise men were not present the very night Christ was born; however, it was not that much later. Many have assumed they arrived two years afterwards because of Herod’s decree to destroy all male babies of that age and under. However, there is substantial evidence that Herod died shortly after Christ’s birth which would put the wise men at the scene much earlier than most people assume.
  2. Bethlehem was a very small village at this time with a population between 100-200. It is very likely that there was only one “hotel” or public guest lodge, and so it would not have taken many visitors before there would be no more room.
  3. There were many  astronomical “signs” in the heavens in the immediate years before Christ’s birth. However, most believed in the polytheistic gods of the Greeks and Romans, and therefore, ascribed these signs to Augustus who was celebrating 25 years of peaceful rule in the same year that Christ was born.
  4. The taxation mentioned by Luke was a tax associated with a census ordered in collaboration of the celebration regarding Augustus’ reign. There has been much debate about this decree throughout the years, but this account of a census fits perfectly into the details of the story.
  5. Both Joseph and Mary were of the house and lineage of David. About 100 years before Christ’s birth, a small group of Davidic descendants migrated back to Israel and founded two villages: Kochaba (on the east of Jordan) which means village of the star and Nazareth (on the west of Jordan) which means village of the branch.
  6. The genealogies of Christ, preserved in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts were assisted by these Nazarenes, who kept detailed genealogies because they believed strongly that the Messiah would come from their midst. They were right, but when Christ presented himself to them, he was not what they were expecting. They were the first to try to kill Christ by shoving him off of a cliff above the village.

2 Important Details

There are 2 details that God wanted the Shepherds to see and by extension all of us today! These details, I believe, are the 2 most important details about Christmas that we should have a clear understanding about.

Read with me Luke 2:12 and see these 2 details that were to be a sign unto them:

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Clothes have always been a sign to people. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, they knew they were naked, and so they made themselves a set of clothes from the fig leaves. Yet God knew those clothes were unsatisfactory, so He made them a coat from animal skins. Picturing the first death, albeit a substitute death, of many to come until the lamb of God himself should be sacrificed for the sins of the world. The Bible mentions special clothing to be worn by priests, and special clothing to be worn by kings! It speaks of the attire of a harlot, and it speaks of the attire of a prophet! When Christ was crucified, it speaks of his robe, and when arose from the grave, it speaks of the linen cloths and napkins.

So when his clothing is mentioned here at his birth, let us take a second look and see what might these swaddling clothes be a sign of. Swaddling clothes were long strips of cloth.  Some have suggested that swaddling clothes were used only by wealthy people, and others have suggested that swaddling clothes were also used for corpses, and I can see the how that could fit into the narrative, but personally, I could not validate these two scenarios beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, there is one scenario that remains open and is no doubt a major sign. When a baby was wrapped in swaddling clothes, they were tightly wrapped to restrict nearly all movement. And it doesn’t matter the tightness of the bind, the very fact that the all-powerful God who has existed from eternity past to eternity future could indeed ever be bound is beyond human comprehension!

In the garden of Gethsemane, when Christ was betrayed, Peter struck off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, Jesus responds with a rebuke to Peter, and he says in Matthew 26:53,

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” Can we not think about this for one moment?

Christ could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free! Even more so, for he could have called 12 legions of angels! Yet, Christ laid down his life willingly. My friends, were not those same angels attending his birth? Could he not have freed himself from the limitations which were placed upon him? I believe there was more than swaddling clothes that were constraining him at birth! There was more than human flesh that was restricting him here on this earth! Can I say…There were more than nails that were holding him to a cross! Jesus Christ declares in John 10:17-18, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

What was it that took Heaven’s Prince from eternal glories down to a manger scene…but love! What was it that took Heaven’s Prince from the lowly manger scene to a cruel cross…but love! 2 Corinthians 8:9:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

But lest we overlook the manger, can we not observe a simple point here as well? God has always spoken to us in terms we understand. To the fisherman Peter, he says – Follow me and I will make you fishers of men! To the woman at the well, he says – I am the living water! And to Shepherds here at the Christmas scene, He says you’ll find the babe lying in a manger! The humbleness of Christ’s birth was not overlooked, but the powerful sign to the shepherd’s was that the Lamb of God was here!

Yet this Lamb was also the Good Shepherd! And here at his birth, he demonstrated the very truth he was communicating to all his followers as he taught them in John 10:15, “… I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here at birth, he was to be found lying in manger. And at his death, he was to be laid in a tomb! Christ laid down his life that we might be saved! And I stand in awe of the power of God, for he willingly was bound that we might be free! A lot more meaning comes to life when you read the words of Christ in John 10:17, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”

He was bound at birth! He was laid down at birth!

He was bound at death! He was laid down at death! But on the 3rd day, he was loosed, and he arose. And because of him, we too can be freed, and we too will rise again!

With so many Christmas carols to sing, maybe we should look at one of the originals! Simeon was right on when he said he to Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 2:34, “… Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…”

Merry Christmas!




Tour of the Tabernacle 3

When Adam was in the garden, God came down to man, and when man sinned, it was man that turned his back on God! The fellowship of God with man was severed! Yet God still desired fellowship! It was God in Genesis 3 that came looking for Adam! And it was God who came looking to dwell once more with man in Exodus 25. “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”

Walk with me around to the other side of this tent. This tabernacle that you see here was the first dwelling place among men since the Garden of Eden, and it’s interesting to note that it was a temporary shelter. God designed a temporary dwelling place! And when the tabernacle was finished the “glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” In this so simple of an act, God moved in and dwelt with man! But this dwelling place was temporary.

After the tabernacle, God chose to dwell in Solomon’s temple! In 2 Chronicles 7:1 after Solomon had finished dedicating the temple the Bible records, “and the glory of the LORD filled the house.” But this dwelling place was temporary.

After Solomon’s temple (in all of its beauty) was destroyed by the Babylonians, Zerubbabel came to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple as God commanded, and God was in this! But this dwelling place was temporary.

After Zerubbabel’s temple, King Herod built a temple of magnificent size! Compared to Solomon’s temple, Herod’s temple was far bigger and far more costly – but God was not in this temple, because God did not order this temple to be built. Besides, the Bible states clearly that God’s temple was already here in the very person of Jesus Christ, and the glory of the Lord filled this temple!

II Corinthians 5:19, “…God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself…”

Colossians 2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

Christ Himself said in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” You see, though this was the God-Man, the temple of His body was only a temporary dwelling place for God. After Christ was crucified, buried, and arose again from the dead, he ascended up into heaven, but not without leaving us a new dwelling place! Of course, God’s new dwelling place is in the hearts of believers! My friends, can we not see the heart of God as he was drawing nearer and nearer to the heart of man!

Galatians 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

I Corinthians 6:19, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…”

But this dwelling place is also temporary – until this tabernacle of flesh is dissolved. Then God will establish himself an eternal dwelling place!

II Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

What began with God coming down to dwell with man will soon end with man going up to dwell with God! And the very first type of this promise was this tabernacle that you now see.


Tour of the Tabernacle 2

The tabernacle was a type and a picture of Jesus Christ!

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)

No wonder why Creation is given so little attention while the tabernacle receives so much more! Creation only gives glory to God, but Christ is the Glory of God! Hebrews 1:3, speaking of Jesus Christ, says,

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person!

Creation is no match for Salvation, and though Creation on the outside displays its wonders to us, it moans before God. But the tabernacle has not the display of beauty on the outward appearance. In fact, Isaiah 53:2-3 says,

…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Yet on the inside of this ugly tent that you now see, there is beauty that cannot be told of: from the Golden Candlestick, to the Golden Table of Shewbread, to the Golden Altar, and indeed, to the Golden Ark of the Covenant that no man could even look upon!

But before we go inside to see the spectacular furniture, let us walk around the outside of this tabernacle for a moment and observe a few things. Notice that this tabernacle was a tent. As a matter of fact, the word “tabernacle” means a dwelling…a tent. This tabernacle was an earthly, temporary, residence. Hebrews 9:1 describes it as a worldly tabernacle. It was made of perishing materials which belong here to the earth!

You see, this tabernacle is a far cry from its cousin, the temple, and while both of these places pictured Christ, they represent 2 completely different aspects of Jesus’ ministry: The Temple represented Christ when he comes the 2nd time, but the tabernacle represented Christ when he came the 1st time on Christmas night over 2,000 years ago!

  1. After all, it was the Tabernacle that was made first, then the temple. The tabernacle was temporary, and when Christ came the first time, he was here for only 33 some years, and while he was here, he abode not in 1 place.
  2. But the temple was permanent. And when Christ comes again, he’s here forever!
  3. The tabernacle was erected by a prophet, and when Christ came the first time, he held the office of a prophet.
  4. But the temple was constructed by a king, and when He comes the second time, He will be King of Kings!
  5. The #5 is prominent in the tabernacle representing grace, and when Christ came the first time, his ministry was all about grace.
  6. But the #12 is prominent in the temple (#12 is the # for governmental perfection), and when he comes the second, he’s here to rule the kingdom.
  7. The tabernacle was built in the Wilderness, and when Christ came the first time, he was born in a manger, raised on a carpenter’s bench, ministered with nowhere to lay his head, and when he died, he was laid in a borrowed tomb.
  8. But the temple was in Jerusalem, the city of kings, and when he comes again, Sound the trumpet! Lift up your voice and sing! Look to the throne of Grace and worship and the King of Kings!
  9. The tabernacle was mean, humble, and unattractive on the outward appearance. And Christ, when he came the first time, had no beauty, no form, and no comeliness. He was veiled in flesh.
  10. But the temple was magnificent, and when he comes again, Christ will be exalted!

In the book of Revelation you do not find the words meek or lowly; humble or obedient; but instead, you find the Apostle John saying in Revelation 5:11- 12,

… Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see!


Tour of the Tabernacle 1

In 2010, Holly and I went on a tour of the Holy Land! Our tour guide would hold a large sign with our group number on it, and we would follow him from site to site. Some of our favorite places were, of course, Calvary and Gordon’s tomb. The Sea of Galilee was very neat, and Masada was spectacular. But one place, we were not able to see was Mt. Sinai. So, if you will, put on your hiking boots, grab a walking stick, and climb the steep and rugged terrain of Mt. Sinai with me and eavesdrop as the LORD commands Moses concerning the tabernacle.

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Read Exodus 25:8-9)

Now watch your step as we descend this holy mount; I would like to take you to the tabernacle as designed by God. There is so much precise detail concerning the Tabernacle in these chapters that it is the single-most described object and subject in the entire Bible! In relation to Creation, 2 chapters of the Bible were written to detail all of Creation including the earth, skies and seas with all of their inhabitants, but … 50 chapters of the Bible were devoted to the Tabernacle that we have just heard and now see! In God’s plan, it took 6 days to create the heaven and the earth, yet it took 40 days to instruct Moses concerning this tabernacle and all that should happen within it. We marvel at the wonder and beauty of Creation! Look to my left and see the Mediterranean! Look behind you and see the cliffs and mountains by the Arbel Pass! Look to my right! Behold, the well-watered plains of Jordan! How beautiful the world is! How many of you have seen the:

1. Grand Canyon – 277 miles long/ 18 miles wide/ 6,000 feet deep

2. Niagara Falls – Vertical drop of more than 165 feet/ 225,000 cubic feet per second

3. Yellowstone National Park – 3,468 square miles of volcanoes, geysers, lakes, canyons, rivers, valleys, and all kinds of wildlife

4. Colorado Rockies – Mountain Range with several mountains over 14,000 feet

5. Carlsbad Caverns – over 119 known caves beneath the earth’s surface

6. Northern Lights of Alaska

7. Smoky Mountains of Tennessee

8. Redwood Forests of California

Indeed, even our own country is breathtaking! We marvel at God’s creation! But now we stand before the tabernacle. There is no splendor on the outside! There is no beauty to behold. Those walls that you can see are 7 ½ feet high, and they are only made of white linen. The top of the inner tabernacle that you can see is made of that tough and ugly badger’s skin. It’s the same kind of skin that all the ordinary tents in the Israelite camp are made of. So then, why did God give so much attention to this? Why did God give so much detail concerning this rather unusual tent in the wilderness? Because this tabernacle that you see was a shadow of the Messiah that should come.