I love so much about Christmas. Even though I realize Christ was probably not born on December 25th, especially since that date originally was a pagan holiday, it still brings me great joy to hear His name proclaimed in the carols being played everywhere. I enjoy proclaiming, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” as strangers greet me with a “Merry Christmas!” And it’s fun to watch their expressions at the non-traditional reply. I also enjoy some of our own family traditions.
Every year my family knows there will be that gift, or several of them, carefully wrapped by my husband. He would have put much thought into his every action. There may be a drawing on the package, or an encouraging note, or even a riddle to be solved. Sometimes we find another wrapped box….. and another…… and another…, until we finally find the true treasure hidden through the cardboard wrapped layers. But with each of those ‘gifts’, he took thought into every detail of what he wanted accomplished in order to bring great joy to the receiver.
The birth of Jesus is much the same as those layered gifts. That first true gift of Christ came with a scarlet ribbon. A scarlet sacrifice. See, God is into details. He personally wrapped each story in scripture in such a way for us to find another scarlet-ribbon-tied gift waiting to be unwrapped. And He gets excited thinking of the joy that we will find in that last unwrapped gift. The story of Christ’s birth is full of such deeper meanings. The well known verses tie Luke’s account to the many previous ‘gifts’ given by our Creator.
Looking into some of these layered gifts of Christmas, I have often pondered the gift given by heavenly beings to local shepherds. After all, the task of caring for sheep was considered as a hard, lowly and dirty job. So, what was so important about this group to cause heavenly beings to personally tell them about the birth of the Messiah? Simple. They understood Hebrew Temple worship. After all, they were Levitical shepherds. Priests. Men who’s duty was raising sacrificial lambs. Men who recognized the details of the deeper, hidden gifts.
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:8
The region of Bethlehem was home to thousands of lambs. The Hebrew Torah gave God’s instructions for temple sacrifices which took place every morning and evening. That would be a total of 730 sacrificial lambs a year, plus tens of thousands more lambs needed for the feast of Passover and other holy days.
“And you, O Midgal Eder, tower of the flock……the former dominion shall come…..” Micah 4:8
In the northern part of Bethlehem, less than an hour’s journey by foot to Jerusalem’s temple, was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the “watch-tower of the flock.” This was an area prepared for the raising of these sacrificial lambs. During lambing season, shepherds would bring their sheep from the fields to the lower level of this tower. The lower level was the place designated as the ‘birthing rooms’ for the lambs.
“…..you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10
What is missing in this well known verse? Look at it. There is a detail here for us to find. Keep digging! It’s prophetic! Every detail of the Levitical Priests’ duty was tied to that ultimate Lamb. Look closely at the verse and see the hidden truth – the angels gave no directions as to where to find this babe! No, “down the hill, turn left, near the stop sign.” Just, “you shall find….” Obviously these shepherd priests knew where to go.
By Levitical order, the lower level of the flock’s watch tower had double-hewn depressions from limestone rock known as “the manger.” After birthing, the shepherds placed male lambs into the manger and swaddled them in cloths in order to keep them from thrashing around and bringing themselves harm. These cloths of gauze-like strips which were required in order for a sacrifice to be valid. They remained swaddled in the manger until they had calmed down enough to be inspected for any spot or blemish. Those without spot or blemish became sacrificial lambs.
In Hebrew, the word for ‘without spot or blemish’ is tamiym. It means complete, whole, entire, sound. This tamiyd was sacrificed the third hour of each morning, the same time as Jesus, Yeshua haMashiach, was sacrificed! The last wrapped box of the gift was sacrificed in tradition with the daily temple sacrifice. The birth and death tied into one. Hidden details.
Do you see this hidden gift? It’s big! These shepherds understood. The angels spoke their language. And this group of priests were sent to validate my sacrificial Lamb! His birth was the scarlet ribbon which ties the entire package of His Love together. The first gift was tied scarlet red and led to the last box, the true gift of our Sacrificial Lamb. Each detail of the night of His birth has a hidden scarlet bow just waiting for us to receive His gift of sacrificial love. From the beginning Christ understood that His birth led to His death. He knew the meanings…..and sanctioned the very act! He had to be bound. He had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock. He had to be inspected by the priests, these Levitical Shepherds, in order to be found spotless. He had to be birthed in a birthing room near Jerusalem to be set aside as a sacrifice. It’s in the details. Neatly tied in red. This message to the Levitical Bethlehem shepherds proclaimed, “You will find The Spotless Lamb of God swaddled in His protection.” No doubt they understood the full meaning of these words. It was in the details.
What about the details of your life? Like the shepherds, is there a hidden message in the words you are hearing? Others might see your walk as messy, off track, not the normal outward ‘look’. But God knows the wrapped boxes that are layered inside. They, too, are prophetic for your life. And He has them neatly tied in a bow of His love. Christ knew His birth was tied by the scarlet bow to His sacrificial death. And He embraced it!
This year, give Him a gift in return. Take time to get along with your Yeshua. He’s calling. Like Christ, embrace what has been given to you by your Father. He has a deeper message for you than what others are hearing. He’s in the details!
And this year, let’s celebrate that special wrapped gift Himself – Yeshua haMashiach!!
He’s speaking your language. Listen! He’s calling……………….