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Christ is Born

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Luke 2:1-6
Luke 2:1–6 NKJV
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

The opening words of this famous section of Scripture provide the setting for this, the greatest of all stories, by informing us that Caesar Augustus (Octavian) was ruler of “the entire Roman world”—“all the inhabited earth” (NASB). The ancient historians tell us that Caesar Augustus was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar and was a born fighter who clawed his way to power by defeating Antony and Cleopatra and then, through the considerable genius and force of his person, gave the empire a solidness that was to endure for centuries.

He was the first Caesar to be called “Augustus” when the Roman Senate voted to give him that title. Augustus means “holy” or “revered,” and up to that time the title was reserved exclusively for the gods. It was under Augustus’ rule that decisive strides were taken toward making the Caesars gods. In fact, at about the same time Luke was writing these words, some of the Greek cities in Asia Minor adopted Caesar’s birthday, September 23, as the first day of the New Year, hailing him as “savior.” An inscription at Halicarnassus (birthplace of the famous Herodotus) even called him “savior of the whole world.”2

Historian John Buchan records that when Caesar Augustus died, men actually “comforted themselves, reflecting that Augustus was a god, and that gods do not die.” So the world had at its helm a self-proclaimed, widely accepted god and savior. Luke, the historian and theologian, wants us to see this as the tableau for understanding the coming of the real Savior. The contrast could not be greater.

Inside Rome, in the Forum, the doors of the Temple of War had been closed for ten years and would remain closed for thirty more. To memorialize the peace, the famous monument Ara Pacis Augustae propagandizing Augustus’ peace had been erected. Rome and Augustus had bludgeoned every foe into submission. There was “peace,” but it was a dark peace—a Hitler’s peace—and no man or woman or boy or girl could say a word against it without fearfully looking over their shoulder.

The Decree by Caesar

The Shocking place of the birth

The Law (2:2-3) All are required to return to their ancestral homes because of a census.

Caesar Augustus’ relentless arm stretched out to squeeze its tribute even in a tiny village at the far end of the Mediterranean. Thus it came about that a village carpenter and his expectant teenage bride were forced to travel to his hometown to be registered for taxation. It was a miserable journey. Mary was full-term, which forced a slow, rolling gait as she walked those eighty miles. Perhaps, if she was fortunate, she had borrowed an animal to carry her. But whatever their situation, she traveled in the dust and cold of winter, bearing the distressing knowledge that she might have her first baby far from home, from her mother, and from nearly everyone who cared about her.
Seen through everyday logic, Joseph and Mary were insignificant nobodies from a nothing town. They were peasants. They were poor, un-educated, of no account. But she understood who she was and who God was. Early on, after Mary learned she was pregnant with “the Son of the Most High” and met Elizabeth, she sang her great Magnificat, beginning with the words, “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (). And toward the end of her song she said of her son: “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (vv. 51–52).
Joseph and Mary capsulized the mystery of grace—the King does not come to the proud and powerful but to the poor and powerless. As it is so often in life, things were not as they seemed to the world around, because humble Mary and Joseph were the adoptive father and birth mother of the King of kings. Seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Micah had prophesied: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah [such an inconsequential little town!], out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (). And now the poor couple’s forced journey to Bethlehem to pay taxes would set the stage for the fulfillment of that messianic prophecy. They appeared to be helpless pawns caught in the movements of secular history, but every move was under the hand of Almighty God. The Messiah would indeed be born in tiny, insignificant Bethlehem! As the Virgin traveled, her steady beating heart, hidden from the world, kept time with the busily thumping heart of God.
The baby Mary carried was not a Caesar, a man who would become a god, but a far greater wonder—the true God who had become a man!
The baby Mary carried was not a Caesar, a man who would become a god, but a far greater wonder—the true God who had become a man!
a robe of virgin flesh.
The baby Mary carried was not a Caesar, a man who would become a god, but a far greater wonder—the true God who had become a man!

The Location (2:4-5) Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem.

Before the birth of Christ, no royalty would ever show their humility. That would be too human, too common. Kings have parades & entourages to draw the focus toward them.
When Queen Elizabeth last visited America, she brought with her the following items
• 4000 pounds of luggage – 4 outfits for everyday she was in America
• 40 pints of plasma
• Her own hairdresser
• Two valets
• An official photographer
• Two personal secretaries
• THE COST OF HER TRIP TO AMERICA WAS 20 MILLION DOLLARS
In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal stable, no attendants were present, there was no place for the baby to lay down except in a feeding trough known as a manger. In fact, the event, which divided history and our calendars, went by unnoticed except for a few shepherds who came by for a visit. Jesus Christ, Birth—Bethlehem—God, Providence: there was the miraculous taxation.
Three things should be noted. a. The taxation was used by God to fulfill His plan for the birth of the Messiah. It had been prophesied that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and Scripture had to be fulfilled. Joseph and Mary lived in Galilee, and Mary was now great with child. How was God going to make sure that the child was born in Bethlehem? The taxation happened just at the right time and in the right way; that is, everyone had to return to the city of his birth to pay his taxes. God was miraculously controlling the events of the world, working all things out for good so that He might fulfill His promise to send the Savior into the world.
Three things should be noted. a. The taxation was used by God to fulfill His plan for the birth of the Messiah. It had been prophesied that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and Scripture had to be fulfilled. Joseph and Mary lived in Galilee, and Mary was now great with child. How was God going to make sure that the child was born in Bethlehem? The taxation happened just at the right time and in the right way; that is, everyone had to return to the city of his birth to pay his taxes. God was miraculously controlling the events of the world, working all things out for good so that He might fulfill His promise to send the Savior into the world. b. The taxation forced Joseph to Bethlehem. Everyone had to return to the city of his birth. Note the great detail given in describing the journey to Bethlehem. The point is that Bethlehem was the prophesied city of the Messiah’s birth (Mi. 5:2). The Scribes understood it (Mt. 2:5–6) and so did the common people (Jn. 7:42). The taxation was certainly an event wrought in the plan of God to fulfill Scripture. c. The taxation led to the fulfillment of Scripture, despite man’s plans. Mary was about to deliver; she was “great with child” (v. 5). Apparently, Joseph and Mary had planned for the child to be delivered in Nazareth; but God overruled. He either caused or used the taxation and saw to it that Joseph and Mary were forced to Bethlehem. Now in summary, why was all this necessary? Why did Jesus have to be born in Bethlehem? 1) The Messiah was the prophesied Son of David (see notes—Lu. 3:24–31; Mt. 1:1; DEEPER STUDY # 3—Jn. 1:45; DEEPER STUDY # 4—1:49 for discussion). 2) David had been born in Bethlehem; therefore, it was necessary for the Son of David to be born there. 3) Scripture foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mi. 5:2). Judah’s shepherds are briefed (2:8-21)

Judah’s shepherds are briefed (2:8-21)

b. The taxation forced Joseph to Bethlehem. Everyone had to return to the city of his birth. Note the great detail given in describing the journey to Bethlehem. The point is that Bethlehem was the prophesied city of the Messiah’s birth (Mi. 5:2). The Scribes understood it () and so did the common people (). The taxation was certainly an event wrought in the plan of God to fulfill Scripture.
c. The taxation led to the fulfillment of Scripture, despite man’s plans. Mary was about to deliver; she was “great with child” (v. 5). Apparently, Joseph and Mary had planned for the child to be delivered in Nazareth; but God overruled. He either caused or used the taxation and saw to it that Joseph and Mary were forced to Bethlehem. Now in summary, why was all this necessary? Why did Jesus have to be born in Bethlehem? 1) The Messiah was the prophesied Son of David 2) David had been born in Bethlehem; therefore, it was necessary for the Son of David to be born there. 3) Scripture foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mi. 5:2). Jesus Christ, Birth: there was the shocking place of birth. Jesus was not born in comfortable surroundings. Shockingly, He was born in a stable and laid in a manger or feeding trough. The birth is covered in one simple verse, yet much can be gleaned from it.
Jesus Christ, Birth: there was the shocking place of birth. Jesus was not born in comfortable surroundings. Shockingly, He was born in a stable and laid in a manger or feeding trough. The birth is covered in one simple verse, yet much can be gleaned from it.
a. Jesus was born in a smelly stable. He was neglected and turned away by men from the very beginning. There was no room in the inn, and Mary was about to deliver. If someone had cared, room could have been made for her.
b. Jesus was born in poverty. If Joseph had possessed the money, he could have bought a room.
c. Jesus was born in obscurity and loneliness. The birth took place away from people, all alone. Note that Mary herself wrapped the child in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
d. Jesus was born in humiliation. He did not enter the world …
• in a hospital,
• in a hospital,
• in a comfortable home,
• in the home of a friend or relative,
• under a doctor’s care,
• under the stars of heaven, nor even out in the open,
• but in a smelly stable, the lowest imaginable place for a birth.
Jesus was born into a corruptible world full of sin and selfishness, greed and unkindness. This is seen in that …
• the world (represented in the innkeeper) was so wrapped up in its affairs that it could not help a woman bearing a child
• no one would make room for Mary in the inn. Money and personal comfort were more important to all who had become aware of the situation
Thought 1. Note how so many missed the first coming of Christ. How many will miss the second coming of Christ?

Judah’s shepherds are briefed (2:8-21)

Judah’s shepherds are briefed (2:8-21)

They watch(2:8) They are in the fields guarding their sheep.

Shepherds: there was the unbelievable appearance of a real angel to shepherds. In the eyes of many, an angel would never appear to a shepherd. Shepherds would seldom be found praising and worshipping God; as a result they were looked upon as anything but worshippers. Their reputation was lowly at best, and religious people snubbed and ignored them. They were despised because they were unable to attend services and to keep the ceremonial laws of washing and cleansing. Their flocks just kept them too busy. What a beautiful foretaste of the salvation to come: God gave the first message of His Son to common shepherds, those looked upon as sinners.
a. The angel’s appearance was that of splendor and glory. This was the shekinah glory (see note—). b. The angel’s message was one of reassurance and good news. He proclaimed the Messiah’s birth and charged the shepherds to visit the child. He gave them a sign: they would find the babe lying in a manger. Thought 1. The Savior was coming to call sinners to repentance; therefore, the first announcement of His coming was given to sinners. “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” ().
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence” (). Angels: there was the spectacular appearance of the heavenly host. The word “host” means an army of angels, “ten thousand times ten thousand” (; see ). (100 million angels)! God either gave the shepherds a special sight into the spiritual world and dimension or caused the spiritual dimension to appear to physical sight. Note: the angels did two things.
a. They cried out for glory to be lifted up to God … • who is the highest possible Being • who dwells in the highest realm of being possible, in heaven itself b. They cried out for peace, for good will toward men. By peace is meant the peace of reconciliation, the good will between God and man. The alienation and separation, struggle and divisiveness, restlessness and fear caused by sin needed to be solved. The heavenly host was praising God that the alienation and separation were now being solved in the birth of the “Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” ().

They wonder (2:9–14): The shepherds are confused and terrified when the horizon is suddenly filled with God’s glory!

Shepherds: there were the excited shepherds’ seeking evidence. Note their excitement.
a. They decided immediately to visit. “They said one to another, let us now go.…”
b. They rushed to see for themselves. There is a sense of extreme urgency in these words. They acted with haste, rushed, hurried. They felt an urgency to act and to act now. They wasted no time. Note: they found the babe just as the angel had said.
c. They shared the message. They first experienced seeing the child themselves, then they shared their experience wherever they went. They were the first to bear witness to the Savior of the world.
d. They caused a stir among the people. Note that nothing is said about these hearers’ seeking out the child. They only wondered about what they heard; they never responded and never moved to find Him for themselves.

They worship (2:15–16): The shepherds kneel before the babe in the manger.

They witness (2:17–21)

Mary—Humility—Trust: there was the awe-stricken, pondering mother. This is a beautiful picture of a humble, trusting heart. Mary had been told that her child was of God, truly of God. Above all others she knew that the Messiah, the very Son of God, had now come. She had been through so much: pregnant, yet unmarried; the possibility of being found out and of rumors heaped upon rumors; the discussions with Joseph and with her parents; the long trip from Nazareth; the exhaustion of giving birth without help in a smelly stable; the visit of some rough-hewn shepherds with an amazing story of the heavenly host’s proclaiming the praises of God. Mary was tired, as weary and exhausted as a person could be. So much had happened, and she was at the very center of it all. No one could even begin to know the thoughts that had filled her mind for nine months, nor could anyone know the feelings and emotions of the experience. The wonder, the amazement, the astounding reality was too much to talk about. All she could do was continue in the humble sweetness that had so characterized her over the past months. She merely bowed once again in humble adoration to God and quietly entrusted all these things into God’s keeping. She said nothing, only pondered in her heart what was happening. 7 (2:20) Shepherds: there were the common, non-religious shepherds worshipping God. a. The shepherds had spread the message, but note a shocking fact. The shepherds alone are seen praising God. No one else is seen seeking or praising the Savior. b. The shepherds were praising God for what they had heard and seen. God had spoken to them and they had received the message. They obeyed God’s instructions to seek out the Messiah; therefore, they had been privileged to see the Messiah. They had reason to praise God. (How many hear and see, yet never respond and never praise God?) “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (). 8 (2:21) Jesus Christ, Name: there was the unusual naming of the child. The child was named by God Himself. a. The child Jesus was named by God before He was conceived in the womb (). b. The name Jesus (iesous) means Savior or He will save. The Hebrew form of the name is Joshua which means Jehovah is salvation. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (). “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (). 9 (2:22–23) Jesus Christ, Fulfills Law: there was the unexpected observance of the legal ceremonies. There were three legal ceremonies which Jesus underwent. a. There was the ceremony of circumcision (see DEEPER STUDY # 1—Ph. 3:3). b. There was the ceremony of purification. This was a ceremony Mary had to go through. After the birth of a boy child, a woman was considered unclean for forty days (eighty for a girl child). She could work around the home and engage in normal activities, but she could not take part in religious ceremonies. She was religiously, that is, ceremonially, unclean. After a woman’s forty or eighty days were up, she was to make an offering in the temple (). c. There was the ceremony of dedication to the Lord (v. 23; see , , ; ; ). A male child was presented (dedicated) in the temple when the family was close to Jerusalem. Why would Jesus, the Son of God, be subjected to the legal observances of the law? He was not a stranger to the covenants of God (circumcision). He had created the covenants Himself. He was not lacking in commitment (the Dedication Ceremony). He was God Himself, the One to whom all babies were dedicated, yet He was subjected to all the legal requirements. Why? Very simply … “[He was] made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (). “[He was] made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (). “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (; see note—). 10 (2:24) Offering of Poor: there was the deliberate choice of God to have a poor family bear His Son. Note that Mary offered two pigeons. This was the offering of the poor. Rich people were required to offer a lamb and a pigeon. Therefore, God chose a poor family to rear His only Son in an ordinary home without any luxuries. Thought 1. No matter what we have to bear in life, Christ has already borne it—even poverty (see note 3— for discussion). He knows the suffering we undergo; therefore, He is able to strengthen and carry us through the suffering.
You have probably never heard of the island of Molokai. Well, it’s located in the state of Hawaii. And it has quite a history. You have to go way back to the late 1800’s to understand its significance. You see, back then, there was no cure for the highly contagious and deadly disease called leprosy. A disease that would attack the extremities of the body, the ears, the toes, the nose, the fingers. A horrible dreadful disease which today is curable, But, it wasn’t back then. - So, in order to keep the disease at bay. In order to keep it from spreading and creating an epidemic, the government would send lepers to a colony on the island of Molakai where they would be secluded and isolated from those who were not infected with the disease. - Well, in 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the people secluded on the island of Molokai. When he arrived, he was was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically, but socially, and emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and an overall sense of hopelessness. What he saw were people who desperately needed to know the answer to a question we all ask... where is God? They needed God’s presence in their life. - And so, in 1873, Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. Knowing the dangers, realizing the inevitable results of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and built some 600 coffins. And the whole while he was giving them the answer to that question... where is God? - And whenever a church service was held. He would stand up in front of the lepers, and he would warmly, and lovingly address them as "my dear brethren." But then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of "my dear brethren," he began with, "My fellow lepers, I am one of you now." - You see it was out of love that a humble priest became one of the them. Out of love he gave those lepers a gift that would change their life for all of eternity. He shared with them the answer to the ever present question... "Where is God?" And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them.

The Appearance of an angel to the shepherds

The Appearance of the heavenly host

The Shepherds seek evidence

Celebration

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