By Dan Jones
Long, long ago, (about 20 years or so) in a tiny newspaper office far, far away (okay, not the far—Mapleton, Minnesota) I worked as a reporter for the Maple River Messenger. In the course of my duties, I discovered that a one copy of every newspaper ever printed there had been bound into books and saved in the back room.
Now, I never had much interest in history while I was in school but those old newspapers that went back well over 100 years were fascinating.
Suddenly, I wasn’t reading history—I was reading news.
I didn’t just learn how people reacted to Lincoln’s assassination, I knew what the price of a can of beans was at the local grocery store at the time it happened.(I think it was nine cents.)
And one of the things I noticed in those old, old newspapers was that there were no birth announcements. Birth announcements didn’t start showing up in the paper until approximately the 1950’s.
Our small, local weekly newspaper was forever running birth announcements that always had the same format:
Dick and Jane Smith are (“proud” for first child, “pleased” for child 2-4, omit adjective for children #5 and above) to announce the birth of a (son/daughter), (full name of child), born on (date) at (usually 4:32 A.M) on (day of week) (date.) He/she weighed (lbs. & oz) and was (X) inches long. (It always amused me that this particular sentence was pretty much the same sentence under the picture of someone who had caught a large fish, with the exception that the caption under the fish photo usually had an exclamation point involved.) He/she is welcomed home by seven brothers and 14 sisters (all of which are then listed here.)
Now, as far as I know, the newspaper never charged for birth announcements, so why are they absent from the old, old newspapers?
The answer is actually kind of sad.
In the United States in 1900, the infant mortality rate was 165 per 1000 live births. That’s 16.5% or one in six children born who did not live to see their first birthday. In the 1800’s in the U.S., the rate was between 200 and 300 per 1,000. That number today is seven per 1000, or .07 percent. (Another huge blessing we often take for granted.)
And, since most families had six to eight children, virtually every family experienced the heart break of infant mortality.
So it’s understandable that families didn’t announce the birth of a child when there was a pretty fair chance that child would not survive.
But the birth of Jesus was much different.
God was not at all reluctant to announce the birth of Jesus.
He began right after the fall from grace in Genesis 3:15 where He announced one would be born of a woman who would crush the head of the serpent.
About 1400 years before His birth, God announced that His Son would be born from the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:10) About 750 years ahead of the birth of Jesus, God announced that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-1) He also announced His name (Immanuel) and that He would be born of a virgin about 700 years before His birth. (Isaiah 7:14) And, about 600 years before His birth, God announced that His son would be a descendant of King David. (Jeremiah 23:5)
His Father would light up the night sky with a brilliant star to announce the birth of this child. (Matthew 2:2) And, on the night of His birth, the Father would fill that sky with armies upon armies of His angels announcing the amazing and glorious news of the birth of a Savior who is Christ, the Lord! (Luke 2: 9-14)
The LORD God Jehovah, the Great I AM, announces with great glory and joy to those on whom His favor rests the birth of a Son, Jesus Christ. Though He existed from the beginning, He came to this earth as a tiny baby, born of a virgin in the tiny town of Bethlehem. His length and weight is not important, but He was born in the fullness of time—at just the exact, right time. Though He is destined to be called Lord of lords and King of kings and sit at the right hand of God Almighty, He comes to you in humility, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. He will live a life on this earth of poverty. He will be baptized by a man wearing camel hair and eating bugs. He will be tempted in the wilderness. He will gather to Himself men of low station as His disciples—fisherman and common laborers, a tax collector, and a political outcast. He will teach before great crowds. He will feed multitudes with next to nothing. He will heal the sick and the lame. He will bring sight to the blind. He will raise the dead. He will oppose the religious leaders of His day and they and many others will hate him even though He will teach that the kingdom of God is about love. Throngs of people will worship and praise Him and less than a week later, they will call for His execution. He will admit He is a king, but rightly deny that His kingdom is of this world. He will be mercilessly mocked and scorned and spit upon and He will be nailed to a cross where He will die a horrible death. But death will have no victory over Him, for on the third day, He will rise again and all who believe in Him from that day forward will be granted eternal life. He will be the light of the world. His life and his death and His resurrection will change your world more than anything ever has or ever will. Kings will bow down before him. Whole nations will be established and grow and prosper on what He has taught you. Other nations will oppose Him and seek to do evil against Him and His people. His own people will deny Him. He will bring hope and peace and rescue to all who call on His name—and he will welcome them Home where they will be with Him and worship Him and adore Him forever in His glorious kingdom. And every tear will be wiped from their eyes. And there will be no death or pain or misery ever again for all eternity because of the birth of this one tiny baby.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16