Title: Christmas, An Event for Everyone
Text: Luke 2:1-20
(God in His timing and under His authority made the circumstances just right for the birth of His Son, Jesus, into the world. His birth came in a unique way that once again accomplished what He promised long before recorded by His prophets and was shared from generation to generation among the people…)
About that time Caesar Augustus (the emperor of the Roman Empire) ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiance’, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”
They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.
The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Truth: God not only provided the right timing, but also provided the right audience to testify of His Son’s humble birth…Besides his mom and earthly father, with a crowd of strangers that had likewise migrated to Bethlehem for the census, God arranged a host of angels, a small group of lowly shepherds, a generous innkeeper, and of course the animals that shared the stall where Jesus was born.
Thoughts: So why the humble setting with only a few humble people as witnesses? Why not a royal birth in a great palace worthy of a future king? Well, as revealed in the story of His birth, there were those who were jealous of His birth – those who actually feared His birth. King Herod, the earthly king of the Jews certainly was not pleased with the news that Jesus had been born and actually tried to kill the baby. God also did not want the religious leaders of the Jews to know about His birth because they would likely have taken the baby Jesus under their care and taken credit for His development, seeking to influence Him for their benefit and authority. They would be the same group who would ultimately have him arrested and then have Him crucified by the Romans.
Those who would benefit the birth of Jesus the most were chosen – the lowly shepherds and the average people who were huddled in the houses and inns of Bethlehem at that time. They would likely be the ones who pursued Jesus to hear Him share the Good News of God’s love years later as He preached throughout the countryside. Certainly, the angels celebrated because they knew who He was and knew Jesus was the Son of God on mission to reveal God’s love and message to His world personally.
Can you imagine that night of Jesus’ birth? This small town of Bethlehem, or literally “House of Bread”, was overflowing with strangers for certain, but this was also the hometown of Joseph’s family. There would be cousins, aunts and uncles likely who were there for Mary and Joseph and the newborn Jesus in those early days. Likewise, we are told that the shepherds told everyone they found about what they heard and saw that night. Many may not have taken the news to heart those first days of Jesus’ birth, but certainly many years later as Jesus became known to the people for His preaching and miracles, they remembered what they had witnessed that night.
As you think about Christmas this year, consider those who were touched by that first night we celebrate each year. Consider how you might have felt if you were there that first night, and how you would later remember that night if you were to be among the crowds who listened to the man Jesus as He spoke about the kingdom of heaven and God’s love. You may not have fully understood the importance of Jesus’ birth, but you would have come to understand the importance of His life, death and resurrection.
I hope this Christmas, all of you will think about your relationship with who Jesus was in history and how He is in your life today. I hope that Christmas will mean more than Christmas trees and gifts to you this year, and for the rest of your lives. Just as the baby Jesus ultimately changed the lives of all who were in Bethlehem that night long ago, Jesus still is changing lives today.