The Greatest Story – Part 2: Immanuel

Mary’s exhausted body finally succumb to sleep but after only a few short hours she awoke with her heart racing. It took her a moment to remember where she was and as she tried to roll over a soft moan tumbled from her lips as her weary achy body made known its protest. Mary took a few depth breaths to calm her racing heart as she felt her sleeping baby next to her, she pushed herself up into one elbow and tried to stare at his beautiful face in the dim light. Jesus lay in a very unusual crib, a feeding trough, but he didn’t seem to mind as he slept soundly. Mary’s ear picked up strange voices mixed with Joseph’s voice and wondered what was going on. As if he had read her mind Joseph crept quietly to her side to check if she was awake “are you ok?”, Mary tried to sit up and Joseph rushed to assist her as she let out another moan of pain, Joseph’s face filled with concern “I’m so sorry that you’re stuck here in this uncomfortable place”, Mary caught her breath and replied: “it’s ok Joseph, you tried everything, at least we are warm and safe”. Joseph smiled and stroked Mary’s face “you’re really so special”, Mary smiled back at him “you’re pretty amazing yourself”. Their moment was interrupted by Jesus stirring and Joseph gently picked him up “I think someone else wants your attention also”. Mary smiled and reached out for her son. “I’ll grab you some food and then we have some unusual visitors that insist on seeing you and our son”, Mary looked at Joseph with curiosity but he was gone before she could ask for more detail. A few moments later Merry, the homeowner’s wife, came to check on Mary with some food, fresh water and more cloth for Jesus “did you manage some sleep”, Mary sighed “yes thank you and thank you again so much for your assistance I was really quite scared”. Merry smiled “I’m so pleased I could help. I’m sorry that this is the only space we have free at the moment.”. Mary smiled and replied: “I appreciate having somewhere warm and safe, thank you for your kindness.” The two women sat in silence as Mary ate and fed Jesus. Once Jesus had finished Merry helped Mary to change him into fresh swaddling and she rocked him as Mary laid back sipping her water. “I’m sorry that you can’t rest longer but as Joseph mentioned we have some very keen people who are insisting on seeing you and Jesus, is that ok?” Mary again was extremely curious but just smiled and nodded. Merry handed Jesus back to Mary and left to find Joseph. A few moments later Joseph returned with Rufus, the homeowner, and a group of men. The first man laid down a staff as he knelt next to Mary and she recognized it as a shepherd’s hook. Mary smiled and offered Jesus to the man but he just knelt with a look of awe upon his face. One by one the shepherds gathered around Mary and Jesus kneeling with strange looks on their faces. Finally one of them spoke “blessed Mary we thank you for allowing us to visit. We have quite an unusual tale to tell.” Mary’s eyebrows shot up and she noticed Joseph winking at her over their heads, as she nodded the shepherd continued: “we were out in the fields not too far away and it was just like any other night except one particular star seemed extraordinarily bright.” The man’s face lit up as he continued “then the most amazing thing happened an angel appeared and the brightness of the Lord God shone all around us. We were terribly afraid but the angel told us not to fear because he was bringing good news of great joy. He told us that we would find a newborn baby right here in Bethlehem, wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger. We of course wondered just what was so special about a new baby and it was as if the angel understood our thoughts because he explained that this baby is the One we have been waiting for, he is the Messiah!”
Mary’s eyes filled with tears at the shepherd’s words. Then all of them began to speak at once about how a choir of angels had filled the sky and one shepherd sung out the song he had heard:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV)
The first shepherd managed to get the others to quieten down so that he could explain “when the choir of angels left us we packed up and rushed straight here. It was easy to find you as the bright star led us here!”. The crowd that had followed the shepherds listened with amazement and pressed closer to see the baby that they spoke about. Mary hugged Jesus tightly to her chest and smiled as she allowed their words to sink deeply into her heart.

As the shepherds and the crowd disbursed Mary lay back in the straw to unpack all that they had told her, eventually her exhausted eyes closed and she dreamt about the choir of angels. She awoke to another crowd of visitors, at the sight of the distinguished looking men Mary felt unprepared and dishevelled. The men approached and knelt beside Jesus with a look of absolute wonder in their eyes. As Mary sat up straighter one of the men explained how they had been studying and searching. Mary gasped as one man reminded her of Balaam’s prophecy that her family had often recited:
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” (Numbers 24:17 NKJV)
Another man quickly explained that they had been closely watching the skies over Bethlehem because of Micah’s prophecy:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
They explained how they had been watching the skies year after year and had seen the dramatic changes. They had enquired with King Herod about the new born king but he had seemed shocked and disturbed by their news. Joseph gave Mary a concerned look as they both felt uneasy at the mention of King Herod.
As the men explained how the star had appeared and moved to where Jesus lay a great excitement bubbled forth, “today we meet a great King and we have prepared gifts for him”. Each man brought forth a small chest and presented them to Mary, with shaking hands she opened them one by one to find gold, frankincense and myrrh. Tears of gratitude rolled down her face and she thanked them for their kind words and generous gifts. The men visited with Mary, Joseph and Jesus for a little while discussing in great detail their journey and observations and then rested nearby.
The next morning they bid farewell to Joseph as Mary and Jesus slept and explained that they would not return the way they had come because they had all had dreams that warned them to not return via King Herod. As Joseph thanked them again he wondered if Mary was strong enough to leave also because the Magi’s words had increased the unsettled feeling in Joseph’s heart.

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

Picture – Westminister Church PCA

Read the visit of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12

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