Eleventh Witness – Wise Men

“There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” (Matt. 2:1.) The wise men must have been ignorant of the political situation at the time, for they sought Christ’s whereabouts from Herod: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Matt. 2:2.) Or they may have thought they should seek a King at a castle. Either way they spoke to Herod about their plans.

Wise men, guided by a new star, came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus sometime after His birth. They were not ordinary men. Magi were “privileged to search out the Son of God and give Him gifts, and were spiritually sensitive and knowledgeable, suggests that they were actually prophets on a divine errand.” (Bible Dictionary) They were holy men from a land east of Palestine.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Who from the east would care about the King of Jews?” The logical answer is, “The Jews.”  At this time most of the Jews still lived in Babylon and were there until 1000 AD when the Muslims took over Babylon.  So the wise men most likely were Jews living in Babylon.

The Magi or wise men bearing gifts from the east are symbolic of Jesus returning from the east bearing eternal gifts!

We also know from the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible that the wise men came seeking “the Messiah of the Jews” (JST, Matt. 3:2) thus following the pattern of witnesses that brought seekers of the Son of God to Judea.

They believe the new star they saw marked the coming of the King and chose to take him the gifts prophesied about in the scriptures (see Isaiah 60:1-6, 9-10, 14, 17). They brought gold for a king, frankincense for a priest and myrrh for the Lamb who must die that we might live.

The wise men gave the gifts to the poor family who received them openly. Both Joseph and the wise men were warned to leave Bethlehem. I’m sure the money the wise men gave them helped finance their trip to Egypt. God always provides a way for his people to accomplish the things he has asked of them.

  • How has God provided a way for you to accomplish your dreams?
  • What personal signs have you noticed in your life?

(see Matt. 2:1-23)

Tenth Witness – Anna

Another special witness of the birth of Christ in the temple was Anna—the aged widow whose name means “full of grace.” She was a devout and saintly woman who worshipped for many years in the temple, she was undoubtedly well known among the faithful. Just as there are many widow serving and welcoming people to the house of the Lord today.

She approached the holy family and immediately recognized divinity. She then bore testimony to everyone in Jerusalem who “looked for redemption” (Luke 2:38) of the babe, Savior of the World.

Simeon and Anna, probably named after Hannah, Samuel’s mother, are often forgotten in the Christmas story, older people often are today. Such wisdom and friendships are not being shared. But God is aware of them and remembers them. My 80 year old visiting teaching partner, Dori, just went through 2 major artery transplants, it was touch and go whether she would stay in the mortal existence or not. After 10 months she and I got to go out again to visit our sisters again together and we wept. She thanked me for helping her “feel normal” again. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Please, remember the elderly, listen to their stories, how they met their spouse, how they gained their testimony. Invite them into your home as God invites them into his.

Anna is a wonderful example of faith and witnessing. She recognized divinity. When is the last time you saw divinity in someone? or one of God’s creations? I recently watched a video of a mother and her daughter-in-law whose relationship was not ideal. They were put together in an unique situation and ended up healing and strengthening that relationship. As I watched the healing process and the love ooze out of both of them for each other I felt divinity. I believe whenever there is healing and strengthening of relationships God is there.

Ninth Witness – Simeon

Simeon must have had a lifelong habit of listening to and following the Spirit for he “happened” to be at the temple the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to be redeemed (a tax necessary to redeem the firstborn from priestly service).

Luke described Simeon as a “just and devout” man who had been promised he would not die until he had seen the Savior. When he saw the baby his spiritual eyes were opened and he recognized the Savior of the World. He took the child in his arms and declared, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation [Jesus], which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

This was great news for the Gentiles. Joseph McConkie said Simeon’s declaration “reached far beyond the understanding and hop of those of his nation, for he saw the universal nature of Christ’s ministry. He bore witness that Jesus was Savior to Jew and Gentile alike.” (Joseph F. McConkie, Twelve Witnesses of Christ’s Birth, Ensign, December 1990)

He offered Mary a priesthood blessing perhaps he visualized how difficult and rewarding her future would hold. Eli was an archetype of Simeon in the fact that they both gave blessings to the parents who gave their sons to God. Can you imagine the feeling at that sacred meeting? No wonder Mary pondered these things in her heart. What experience have you had that have caused you to ponder?

See Luke 2.-21-39

 

 

Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.   ~ Luke 2: 30-32

Seventh Witness – Shepherds

At the birth of him who is called the “good shepherd” (John 10:14), shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of his holy birth (Luke 2:8-16). These were not ordinary shepherds, for it had been prophesied among the Nephites that angels would declare the glad tidings of the Messiah’s birth to “just and holy men” (Alma 13:26).  These were probably priesthood holders acting as shepherds in the temple fields.

Their job that spring night was to witness the birth of the lambs. Many gave birth to two lambs and they needs to know the first born so it could be marked as a sacrificial lamb.

Rebecca Stay has this to say about the shepherds out at night:

Did you ever wonder why shepherds were given the great opportunity to be the first to go see the baby Jesus?

Why not the bakers in town? This was Bethlehem (Hebrew for “house of bread”). [I once had a rabbi tell me there must have been famous bakery there.] I say/go read John 6, esp. 35.

Or maybe blacksmiths: there would be one or two around the local stables, surely.

But instead God sent the angelic message and choir to the shepherds. They were out on the hills, watching the sheep by night because this was spring, the lambing season, and they would need to witness the births of the lambs in order to separate out and mark – perhaps with a scarlet cord tied around the neck – all the firstborn lambs, which would then all belong to the Lord and His temple (Ex. 13:2).

So, this was their job: to witness the birth of the Lamb of God, His Firstborn who was slain before the foundation of the earth.

Oh, and did you know that ra’ah, the Hebrew word for shepherd, also means friend? Who better than His friends to witness to the rest of the world of the birth and rebirth of the Lamb?

This special night these chosen shepherds got to witness the first born son of God – the Lamb of God.

Shepherd and sheep are often use to illustration Christ’s relationship with his followers:

  • The Psalmist said, “The Lord is my shepherd.” (Psalms 23:1)
  • The Hebrews referred to him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrew 13:20)
  • Jesus spoke of himself as “the good shepherd” who “know my sheep, and am known of me.” (John 10:7-18)
  • Peter was asked to feed his sheep (John 21:1)
  • Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds (Acts 20:28)
  • The Latin word, “pastor” means shepherd

After the Shepherds witnessed the birth of our Savior they told their family, friends and neighbors. Their message was to be told in the courts of the temple, and from there to be told among all nations of the earth. The “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:16-17) for the angel declared to them that holy night, that these “good tidings of great joy” should “be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus was witnessed and visited by shepherds symbolic of him becoming our “Good Shepherd”, “Friend” and leader. How are you being his sheep and allowing his to lead and guide you?

See Luke 2:8-20

Sixth Witness – Joseph

Joseph was the patriarch of Jesus’ home. He had family home evening with Jesus and his brothers and sisters. He taught him a trade, told him stories, encouraged him to walk, talk, read and sing.

Years before Joseph took a hard question to the Lord. It may have gone something like, “Father, the woman I’m engaged to is now with child and it is not mine. What do I do?” Life can give us hard questions with no easy answer.

Gabriel shows up and brings him comfort. Jesus is at the center of this story too. He tells him to go ahead and marry Mary and name the child Jesus. But he did not give him all the answers. They began to unfold throughout the next months. Elizabeth has a special son, the shepherd show up at the birth, foreigners bring money to help pay for travel and schooling. Joseph steps up to his role as a faithful, loving step father who protects, instructs and wonders at God’s Son.

When Jesus is at the center of our lives we can forgive, be at peace and move ahead in faith even when we have hard questions.

Why would the angel give the name of the baby to Joseph? Perhaps it was a way of saying to adopt the baby as your own. In their culture when a father named the baby at the temple it was saying he claimed the baby as his own. Gabriel gave him the name of Jesus, meaning “save his people” and fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, “call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) meaning God with us. Jesus means “God is here to save us.” and Joseph loved him as his own.

Joseph was told to flee Bethlehem and go into Egypt and he immediately rose and took his family and left, he was righteous and obedient.

Have you noticed the similarities between Joseph of Egypt and Joseph of Nazareth? Rebecca Stay wrote up her thoughts on this:

Joseph of Egypt was the birthright son, head of the 12 tribes and 2nd only to Pharaoh in Egypt.  Joseph of Nazareth would have been the King of the Jews had the land not been under Roman rule.

Both Josephs were honorable in their dealings with women.

Both went down to Egypt, humbled for God’s purposes.

And, most pointedly, both were visionary men, dreamers.  This is a biblical description of a man of God. Both had learned to pay attention to how God spoke to them and believing that He did.

Both were JUST (or righteous) men.

In Hebrew, KING is מֶלֶךְ or Melek and JUST is צַדִּיק or Tseddek. 

Thus, Joseph was a Melek-Tseddek.  Are you surprised that God would appoint an amazing Melchizedek priesthood holder to raise His Son?

There is no scriptural record of any words spoken by Joseph, yet his righteousness and reactions to Mary’s condition bear testimony to his belief in Christ’s divine sonship.

Joseph put Jesus at the center of his life and lived in peace, move ahead in faith even when he had hard questions. We can too.

Fourth Witness – John

What a marvelous event it must have been when Elizabeth greeted her cousin, Mary in the spirit of prophecy. Then Mary responded by that same spirit and John leaped for joy. The testimonies of two women—the aged Elisabeth and the young Mary—each bearing a child conceived under miraculous circumstances. They, and the unborn John, all rejoice in the great event about to take place.

Christ was the rightful heir to David’s kingdom and John was rightful heir of the office of Elias. John began his ministry, to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his [Christ’s] ways,” by leaping for joy while still within his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:41, 76; see also Luke 1:15.)

Samuel is an archetype for John the Baptist. Their mothers were barren. They both took Nazarite vows. Both Fathers were priests (Eli became Samuel’s father in learning). Samuel, as Judge, anointed David to become king of Israel. David is the archetype for Jesus. John anointed Jesus through baptism and Jesus would become the King of all of Israel.

John went forth to preach, he was ready and he had the authority to go about it. His ministry consisted of three parts:

  1. to testify that the Messiah would soon come
  2. to testify that he had indeed come
  3. to identify Jesus as the Messiah and to persuade the people to follow him

 

These miracles caused the people to say in their hearts, “What manner of child shall this be!” (Luke 1:66).

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