Behold! The Baby

Behold! The Baby

Behold! The Baby. 

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

“And the angel said to the shepherds, ‘Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people! For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. So don’t be afraid at my appearance, for this is the most joyous news the world has ever heard! A Rescuer was born for you! This is a joy to be shared by the whole world. This Deliverer that has been born is the Messiah, the Lord! And this will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12).

The first birth announcement for baby Messiah, the Big Event for the ages. And who gave the happy announcement? Mother? Father? Grandparents? No, it was announced by heavenly messengers in bright light, straight from the throne of God. This event has been anticipated by faithful Jews for centuries. So who does God choose to be the first to hear this momentous announcement? The Sanhedrin? The priests in the Temple? Caesar? The local rulers? No, God chose the shepherds to be the first to hear the announcement. That’s right, shepherds, the most dishonored in society, at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Shepherds were the ones relegated to do all the grunt work, were chronically underappreciated and overlooked. They were even considered unclean by the Temple purists. They had to sleep outdoors, make do with the weather, fight off predators. and spend countless hours away from civilized society. Yes, the ones honored to hear the Messiah’s birth announcement were the lowly shepherds sitting in their fields taking care of their sheep.

First there was the heavenly birth announcement by a lucky, unnamed angel bathed in a blinding light that could only be the glory of Yahweh. The shepherds were minding their own business, and their sheep, in the fields near Bethlehem. And all of a sudden it was bright as high noon. The shepherds were terrified, of course, and didn’t know what to think. They were surrounded by this dazzling light, practically inside of it. The heavenly messenger assured the shepherds that they didn’t need to be afraid. This is a time to be joyful, not fearful! The Messiah, the Savior has been born in Bethlehem. And this is how you can tell, the angel said… You’ll find the baby in the manger, the feeding trough, wrapped in strips of cloth to make things cozy for the baby.

Bethlehem is a little town five miles south of Jerusalem, and the homeland of King David. He was born and raised in Bethlehem, and it wasn’t a well-known place until the famous messianic prophecy in Micah 5:1-4:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past, to the days of old. Hence Yahweh will abandon them only until she who is in labor gives birth, and then those who survive of his race will be reunited to the Israelites. He will take his stand and He will shepherd them with the power of Yahweh, with the majesty of the name of His God, and they will be secure, for His greatness will extend henceforth to the most distant parts of the country. He Himself will be peace!” This prophecy was well known before the time of Jesus’ birth. Even Herod’s counselors knew of it and quoted it to Herod when he made the inquiry about this new king about to appear (Matt. 2:6). Bethlehem was the city of David, and so it was important that the Messiah, in David’s line, would be born there also. We even see shades of Mary the mother of Jesus who in labor gives birth. The Messiah will indeed shepherd His people with the power of Yahweh, and He will be the Prince of Peace.

Another famous prophecy enlightens us even more, the word of the Lord from Micah 4:8: “And you, O Tower of the Flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come. Even the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Zion.” The Tower of the Flock in this passage refers to a very particular tower, a two-storied tower built in the Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem, about two miles from Jerusalem. “The Flock” was the known as the Temple Flock in this specific field, where the sacrificial lambs were born and prepared for their destiny in the Temple. This tower was called Migdad Eder, and was where the lambs with no defect or blemish, and no broken bones, were protected. Some of the shepherds caring for these lambs were no ordinary shepherds, they were actually shepherd-priests, trained for this important role in the sacrificial system. They routinely wrapped up the unblemished lambs in swaddling linens, made from old priestly undergarments. These special lambs were then laid in a manger inside the tower to protect them from jostling, injury, bruising. Micah’s prophecy about the Tower of the Flock refers directly to the Messiah being born near that Tower, swaddled in cloths, laid in a manger. Jesus the Messiah was the Lamb of God without blemish or defect, born to be a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. The Shepherd’s Field surrounding the Tower was the very place where the angels announced the birth of Christ. Our High Priest wore, for His very first clothing, the holy linens of Temple priests!