Do you have a tradition of reading the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke every year on this day? Well, this year, you will see it with new eyes, because Scripture has prepared our hearts to understand the birth of Jesus with renewed joy.
We have discovered why we need Jesus, that His arrival was prophesied long before He was born, and how Luke builds anticipation for the birth of Jesus in chapter 1 of his gospel. If you missed any of these articles, I invite you to go back and read them to get the full effect as we finally read about the birth of Christ.
Setting the Scene
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child." Luke 2:1-5
This, of course, is the setting of our story - this famous Christmas story. The census is the reason why Joseph uproots his pregnant fiance and guides her atop a donkey to the town of Bethlehem - or so we envision it.
We find out in the next verse that all the ins were full, because Mary and Joseph were not the only ones traveling to the town of their ancestors for the census. I imagine the scene with lots of groups traveling together - it would surprise me if Mary and Joseph were actually traveling on their own - and crowds everywhere once they arrived in Bethlehem.
It is, of course, significant that Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, the town of David:
- The Savior was to be born into the line of David. (2 Samuel 7:12; Isaiah 11:1)
- The Savior was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." Luke 2:6-7
Our typical Christmas skits usually focus on these two verses. Mary and Joseph are exhausted from traveling. They knock on the doors of a few inns - usually three - just to find that all of them are full. The last innkeeper shows them out back to his shed, and there Jesus is born among the animals - well, we leave this part of the story out in our skits, but let's just say, in the next scene Mary is holding a baby surrounded by some friendly animals. That's basically how it works, right, ladies?!
Here it is, the moment we have all been waiting for... in just two verses!! They hold much significance:
- Jesus is fully God, yet willing to give of Himself to become man. He appears, not out of the blue as giant muscleman but rather the way we all entered the world: as a little baby. Our God humbled Himself to the point of coming to us in the form of a little baby that needed our care. Pause here and let that sink in!
- He was not born into a rich home, a palace maybe - something that would be befitting of the King of all kings. Rather, he is born into a humble home that isn't even home. He is born on the road and the first roof over His head is a manger, a place where livestock sleep.
- With this, not only does God make a huge statement about why Jesus came and that we serve a God who humbled Himself for our sake, but He also fulfills all the prophecies He made regarding the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.
How can we be sure these humble circumstances were intentional? Just watch who His first visitors are...
Good News for All People
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." Luke 2:8-18
Shouldn't our focus stay on Jesus in the manger? Why are we shifting to these shepherds in the field so quickly? It is because Jesus came to earth with a purpose. He came for us! Simple people like you and me - and these shepherds going about their job in a nearby field.
Their lives are forever changed when one night, as they are simply going about their normal routines, an angel appears to them. Uhm, yea, I'd be a little scared, too. Wouldn't you?! It's not like that happens on a daily basis.
This angel has a message, and it's good news! It is such good news, in fact, that it will bring joy to all the people. That's right.
Jesus' birth is good news for all of us because it means that our Savior has arrived. There is hope for us yet!
This is glorious news, in fact. Picture this with me: Most of the earth is still unsuspecting and probably sleeping or winding down for the night. Mary and Joseph are looking at their baby boy full of joy and exhaustion. These shepherds are still trying to figure out what the angel's message means.
But guess what's going on in heaven? Angels are singing and praising God, "Glory to God in the Highest." Indeed, it is Him who deserves all the honor for the events of this night. "On earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."
Oh world, you don't yet know the gift you have just been given! This little baby will reconcile all believers with God, the Father.
Of course, the shepherds hurry to see this for themselves. They find Mary and Joseph in the manger with baby Jesus and marvel. This event - of course, just imagine yourself in their shoes - is so amazing, they go and tell everyone they know about it.
The Christmas story doesn't end here. We get a few more glimpses into the early days of Jesus' life on earth - and they are precious!
This week's Bible study worksheet allows you to continue to study Luke 2. You'll discover how some very special individuals responded to the news of Jesus, our Savior, arriving on earth. And you'll be challenged to ponder your own response as well.
Click here or on the image to download your free Bible worksheet. Enjoy!
Friend, thank you so much for joining "The Word on Christmas" series. I had so much fun exploring the Christmas story through the eyes of Scripture. It really ignited in me a heart that was increasingly excited about the birth of Jesus. I loved interacting with you on Facebook and Instagram this month as well.
Did you enjoy the experience and digging a little deeper into the text with a little study tip and Bible worksheet? I hope this series got you excited not only for Christmas but for Bible study as well.
Keep that feeling alive as you plan your New Years resolutions because I have a real treat for you to make 2018 your year of Scripture confidence! Stay tuned. I'll tell you all about, right here on the blog, on January 1st.
For now, enjoy your Christmas.