On several occasions, King Abdullah II of Jordan has disguised himself and mingled with his subjects. He does this to better understand and serve his people. Taking the character of an ordinary old Arab man, he has appeared in public with a fake white beard, wearing the traditional Jordanian kufiah, and the Arabic white dress.
In this disguise, the king walked around without security and was not noticed. Once he stood in a queue, listening to people express their points of view. Another time, he drove around Amman in a taxicab. Once he passed himself off as a television reporter.
At Christmas, we celebrate the coming of God to his people, in Jesus. He did not come just to visit, but to live among them. To be a human being. John says he “moved into the neighbourhood” (The Message). He came, not only to understand us, but to save us from our sins. He came as our Saviour.
Two Key Women in the Story
Woman have an important part in the Gospels, and here at the start of the Christmas story, we see two key women—Mary and Elizabeth, meeting together and sharing the wonderful miracle that was about to happen.
Mary travels about 70 miles to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth. She went to a little village called Ein Karin. She went to see if her cousin—in her late 50's early 60's was indeed pregnant. She was thinking over an incredible experience
An angel told her that she would be pregnant without ever knowing a man. Since the angel disappeared she must have been asking, "Is this real?" The angel had said something else: “If you want proof of this, your elderly cousin is now six months pregnant, go and see her!”
(Read Luke 1:35-37)
Perhaps if she found that if her cousin Elizabeth at her age was able to have a baby with a man, she could have a baby without a man—as a teenager. Her mind must have been saying, "I wonder what I'll find!" She would go to the door, knock, and go in, and there was Elizabeth leaning back with swollen stomach.
The moment is most dramatic. Picture this older woman, perhaps with grey hair, and this teenager staring at each other. Then in each other's arms. Suddenly in that moment, Elizabeth springs back, looks at Mary, and is filled with the Spirit.
She speaks three words.
A Word of Congratulation
(Read Luke 1:42)
Every Jewish girl had one ambition to be the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth remembers something else. Four centuries earlier—God hadn't been speaking for that length of time—a prophet had said God would send someone just ahead of him to prepare his way. Now Elizabeth knows that in her womb is that messenger.
Things are moving after 400 years. The messenger is on the way! They must have discussed it many times. It was her own young cousin who would be the mother of the Messiah. She shouted her congratulations to Mary.
Perhaps we need to get more excited this Christmas. God is here! Let us shout his praise to the whole world. Like the Levites, they praised the Lord, with a very loud voice (2 Chron. 20:19). When we get to Heaven we will worship God in a loud voice (Rev. 5:11-12). In our worship, in our Christmas services, in our carol singing this Christmas, let us sing at the top of our voices “O come let us adore him.”
A Word of Consternation
(Read Luke 1:43)
Once again, the Holy Spirit has reversed the roles. Elizabeth feels that she should have come to see Mary. “You are the Mother of My Lord!” She was the first person in history to call Jesus “Lord.” It took the disciples three years before they could say "My Lord And My God."
She wanted to put the Messiah first. This Christmas, with Elizabeth—our aim should be to give Jesus, the Messiah, his rightful place. He is supremely worthy of our worship this Christmas—above the tinsel, glitter, and parties, a Savior is born!
When the famous film director, Franco Zeffirelli, made his television film about Jesus, he assembled a cast which included many of the greatest actors and actresses of the time—Ernst Borgnine, Anne Bancroft, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, Lawrence Olivier, Donald Pleasance, to name but a few.
Some wondered how they would get on working together on a film set. After all, each one was used to being the star of the film. Zeffirelli, however, had a message for them. "In this film," he said, "there will be only one star—the Star of Bethlehem."
A Word of Confirmation
(Read Luke 1:44)
Mary’s face is clearly saying, "How did you know?” Elizabeth had been told that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. She explains that her unborn child leapt in her womb. He already was bearing witness to the coming Messiah.
(Read Luke 1:15)
John the Baptist began his career three months before he was born. His career was to point to Jesus as the Messiah. Not just a little child will lead them but an unborn child will lead them.
(Read Isa. 11:6)
Elizabeth and Mary were filled with joy that they were part of this wonderful story of redemption. The world was about to change.
The title of an eBay auction from September 2005 reads, "Let Stephen King kill you in his upcoming book!" The auction was created to raise money for a charity.
Here's your chance to be immortalized in literary history. Bid on a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a character in an upcoming book by Stephen King. What could be a better gift for his ultimate fan? The auction ended after 76 bids, with the winner paying $25,100 for the chance to see their name printed in black and white.
We are part of this wonderful story. We are part of God’s story of redemption, and it costs us nothing. It is a free gift of grace. Like Mary, Elizabeth, like John the Baptist, we are called to point to Jesus. This Christmas let us point to Jesus—the hope of the world.
Andy Scarcliffe is a retired Baptist minister from Scotland.