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TEXT: Luke 2:1-20
SUBJECT: Luke #5: The Birth
Today, with God's blessing, we'll move on in our study of Luke's Gospel. The book was written to increase your knowledge of Christ and to build your faith in Him. If you're a Christian, you know the Lord, of course, and believe in Him, too. But both your knowledge and faith need to grow. And there's no better way of nourishing them than by carefully reading the Bible.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God".
In the first chapter, Luke sets the stage for the Lord's arrival. An angel comes to an old priest telling him that he and his aged wife will have a son and that he will "Make ready a people prepared for the Lord".
This is good news, indeed. But better is yet to come. Half a year later, the same angel comes to a girl, living in Nazareth. He tells her that she too will have Son, and that He "Will be called the Son of God".
A few days later, the old woman and the young lady meet-and a party breaks out! Elisabeth's baby recognizes the baby in Mary's womb, and "Leaps for joy".
.Welcoming the Son of God into the world!
This sets off another celebration, as both ladies burst into songs of salvation.
Finally, Elisabeth gives birth to her son, and at his circumcision, the father's silence is broken, and he, too, breaks into song, blessing the Lord for redeeming His people.
The first chapter, in short, is full of anticipation. Everyone is waiting-not too patiently, it seems-but waiting for God to act.
And now, at long last, He does just that.
THE TIME AND PLACE
Luke begins the chapter in his customary way-by giving the details. The time is when "Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be taxed".
And just to make sure that his readers know which taxing he has in mind, he adds, "This taxing was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria".
Scholars say this was some time in the first decade B.C.
The place is "Bethlehem in Judea". Mary and Joseph did not live there, but that's where they went because it's where his family was from. And, under the Roman policy, everyone had to register in his home town. Caesar issued the command to raise money for the Empire. Little did he know that he was also fulfilling ancient prophecies and founding a Kingdom that can never be shaken.
Centuries before, a prophet named Micah, said,
"But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting".
When they got there, they looked for a room, but no decent place was to be found. So, they bedded down in a barn. That night Mary came to full term, and her Baby was born.
To keep Him warm and still, she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes. And she put Him down in his first bed-which was a manger or a feeding trough. Just hours before, it was full of oats or corn or some other grain. But now, it's God Almighty who fills the manger!
The birth of a king is always announced. And this King receives a welcome like no other. Shepherds are tending their flocks outside the city and, as they sat there, bored and sleepy, "An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them".
The men are terrified at the sight. But they needn't be, for the angel has come with, "Good tidings of great joy for all the people".
The news is good-better than good, "For there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord".
Every word is full of good cheer. Bethlehem was a hick town, but the angel doesn't call it that; he calls it "The City of David". It was the city in which Israel's greatest king was born a thousand years before. And where his Son would be born, too. And not just would be born, but has been-this very day!
He is Savior. This word is often used of men who got people out of jams. Either a judge who saved the poor from their oppressors or a warrior who saved the nation from their enemies. But here, the word is taken to a new level. The One born tonight will not only help widows or throw back Philistines, but He'll save His people from their sin and misery.
He is Christ or The Anointed of the Lord. Under the Old Covenant, men were anointed to three offices, prophet, priest, and king. But the Christ-they all knew-would combine the offices in one Person. He would be the Prophet greater than Moses; the Priest greater than Aaron; and the King greater than David. All the holy men of the past had hinted at what He would be, but He would be the Real Thing.
He is the Lord. This could mean "king", but if it does, I don't see how it adds to His luster. He was already called that-and more. I think it's the polite word for JEHOVAH.
The shepherds were staggered by the good news. Their Savior and King and Messiah and God had been born this day in the City of David!
The good news sets off a party in heaven! The angel is joined by a "Heavenly host" (i.e., thousands of angels) who celebrate His birth by praising God and promising men every blessing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men".
After rejoicing before the men at the birth of their Lord, the angels moved the party back to heaven (where it's still going-and stronger than ever).
The angels have no word of command. They announce what has happened, but they don't tell the men what to do about it. But, what would you do in their place? They did the same thing: they started looking for Him.
And it wasn't long before they found Him. In a barn, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
When they saw Him, they told Mary and Joseph about the angels. But they didn't leave it there. They woke up the town with the good news that their God and Savior had been born!
After some holy celebrating, the shepherds when back to their flocks, still "Glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen".
As for the others? We don't know what Joseph made of it all, but Mary "Kept all these things and pondered them in her heart".
Everyone else was amazed and "Marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds".
That's the story.
Why did Luke put it into his Gospel? He wants to show us the tremendous humility of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is going to come up over and over again as the story unfolds. But Luke can't wait; he's got to get to it right now. That's what he does in the story of the Lord's birth.
We've heard the story so many times, that we're apt to miss its glory.
That God was born into the human race. There's no disgrace in being a man-unless you're something better than human. And that's what the Lord Jesus Christ is-better than human! He is God, "The same in essence, equal in power and glory".
What can you compare this to? Nothing, in fact. But here's what I thought of. What creature in all the world is more odious than a common housefly? Think of what it was-a maggot. Think of how where it lives and what it eats. Think of how short its life is. Think that most of the life is spent trying to avoid flyswatters. Can you think of anything you'd less rather than be than a dirty, gross, annoying fly?
Yet the difference between God and man is greater than the difference between man and fly. Would you become a fly? You wouldn't. But God became a Man. What humility!
Think also of when He was born. Not in the glory days of Israel, but when the people had hit rock bottom. Israel wasn't even a country any more, but a sorry outpost of the Roman Empire. It had no king; it had no army; it had no freedom; it had no spiritual life; it had nothing. But it was then that the Lord Jesus Christ was born.
Think of where He was born. Not only in podunk country-that's bad enough-but in barn! The Son of God was born in a place fit for the birth of cows or horses or donkeys!
Think of to whom He was born. Not to educated people, famous people, rich people, but to a poor carpenter and a teenaged girl.
Think of who first greeted Him. When other great men are born, they're welcomed by kings and priests and scholars, and so on. But not the Lord Jesus. His first visitors were shepherds, which is as low as one could get on the social and economic scale. We have a romantic view of shepherds, perhaps. But the work is hard and cold and low-paying and sleepless.
Only losers did that kind of work; taking that job meant you couldn't find anything else. Shepherds were so despised in Israel that they couldn't testify in courts because it was assumed they were dishonest or too stupid to be trusted. The Son of God is welcomed by dirty, stinking, ragged shepherds.
Think of how the story is told. In his great commentary, Norval Geldenhuys, says,
"In a few verses-written simply, in a matter- of –fact and natural way-Luke here relates the tremendous and all-important event. The extreme simplicity of the narrative forms the strongest contrast to the stupendous significance of the occurrence that is recounted".
In other words, even the story of His birth is humble. The greatest event in the history of the world told briefly and without soaring rhetoric.
The details tell us what kind of Man the Lord will be-and wants to be. Remember, unlike you and me, He had a choice of where and when and to whom to be born.
Why did He stoop so low? To save us from our sin and misery,
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that, though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we, through His poverty Might be made rich".
Had the Lord been born in a palace, He could not have sympathized with the common man and the struggles of day-to-day living. But He wasn't born there. He was born lower than any other man, and therefore, able to identify with the whole human race. He knows what it means to be hungry, to be cold, to be looked down upon, and have to do things for Himself. That means Jesus Christ understands everyone. And can save anyone from his sin and misery.
There's a second lesson for us. The life our Lord chose is to be a model for our own lives. Not that we have to become homeless or hungry to follow Him, of course, but we've got to get rid of the lordly attitudes we're all prone to have, and to take on the mind of a servant. That's what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2,
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God did not think it robbery to be equal to God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Himself the form of a servant.He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death Of the cross".
Jesus Christ is a King, but He didn't come into the world as a king, he came as a servant. He wants us to be like Him. That's what the earlier part of the passage says,
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself".
That's what the Lord Jesus Christ did. And what He wants you to do.
Are you putting yourself first? If you are, you've missed the point of the Incarnation? Are you lording it over your wife or husband or kids or the people below you at work or people who don't know as much as you do? If so, go back to the birth of Christ and learn what it means to lay aside personal comfort for the good of others.
If the Lord Jesus Christ hadn't done that, you would go to hell. But he did that, and wants you to follow Him. Until you do, you cannot be holy or happy. You cannot be holy because "holy" means "like Christ". You cannot be happy because-no matter how willful you are-you can't always get your way. But if you prefer others to yourself, you can be happy,
"Come and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your soul".
Let's admire the Incarnation. And imitate it.
The love of God be with you. Amen.
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