A Savior Is Born
A Savior Is Born
A Savior Is Born
How many people have already decorated for Christmas? How early do you do it?
This time of year, and especially for Christians, is dominated by Christmas. Everything from trees and decorations, to shopping and stockings become the focus of many. This is Advent season—the time where Christians spiritually prepare themselves for Christ’s coming.
Illustration: Phillips’ family tradition of cookies, coffee/hot chocolate, and the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas morning.
The Christmas story might be the most familiar passage of Luke’s gospel. And sometimes the most familiar ones lose their impact and become something that we can skim or skip over when we read them.
But this story is one of the most incredible ever told, about how God became human, and it is worth looking at afresh (John 1:14).
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The opening verses of this story set the stage for the Christmas miracle.
God used the government to draw Mary and Joseph out of the region of Galilee in the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem, 80 miles away. What else would cause a pregnant woman to ride a donkey that far?
What is notable about this is the prophetic declaration connected to this.
“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.”
Nazareth was so not special that Nathanael even asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Bethlehem means “house of bread” and would become the place where the Bread of Life was to be born (John 6:35).
There are other hints at the importance of the moment. Clues like the fact that Joseph is of the house and lineage of David.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
When they arrive in Joseph’s hometown, there was no room for them in the inn. This is likely due to the fact that everyone was coming back for the census.
Because there was no room at the inn, they had to take shelter in a stable. The word translated as “manger” can also be translated as a “stall.” It can mean either a feeding trough or an enclosure for animals. It is likely that it was a cave carved out with different stalls for animals where Joseph and Mary took shelter. The manger that Jesus was placed in was most likely a stone feeding trough.
If you were the God of the universe and was about to reveal yourself and change human history, is this the way you would do it?
In a little known region, in a little town, in a little cave, in a stone trough. This is where God was born on that Christmas morning.
The Angelic Host
The Angelic Host
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
As the baby Jesus was being born, the angels of God went to declare the good news.
In the same country, around Bethlehem, there were some shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock.
While they were watching over the sheep, an angel of the Lord appears to them and tells them that a Savior is born.
This whole scenario is telling. The shepherds were social outcasts. Because of their work they were considered unclean. Their work kept them from going to the temple so that they could be made clean. At that time in Israel, the Jews had a low opinion of shepherds. The Talmud states they were not able to testify in court as witnesses. We also know from the Talmud that the sheep for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed from the Bethlehem pastures (Pulpit Commentary). These shepherds took care of the lambs that would be slain to cover sins.
And these shepherds, on the outside of society, in the middle of the night suddenly see an angel and the glory of the Lord shines upon them and they are scared out of their mind.
But the angel speaks to them and says, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good tidings of great joy for all people.”
In the Greek this can be literally, “I evangelize you to a great joy.”
And then they tell him there will be a sign—they will find a Babe in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths.
Finally, a multitude of the heavenly host joins the angel and praises God.
The word “host” is a military term used for soldiers. In other words, an angelic army comes announcing peace.
In this insignificant place, to these insignificant people, comes an army of angels declaring that the King—the Savior—has come.
Why? Why would God send angels to shepherds to declare the good news of great joy?
The message of good news came not to the rich or the well off or the people who were righteous and holy. This message came to ordinary people, outcasts even. Those who were considered sinners and unclean by some. But God sent this message of grace and hope and salvation to them.
This is the message of Christmas. That Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). The King of heaven has come and instead of marching in military procession, He comes as a baby. His army comes not demanding people bow down but declaring great joy. It’s God’s goodness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). And Christmas is the time when the goodness of God was revealed to mankind.
The Savior is Born
The Savior is Born
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
After hearing the good news, the shepherds went with haste to see the Baby. They saw Him and made widely known the saying about Him, that He was the Savior. They took the message from the angels and continued to share it! The same shepherds who couldn’t testify in court were not testifying to the glory of God and salvation in Jesus!
For all who have experienced the true meaning of Christmas, the joy of that good news is something that must be swiftly and widely made known. This is the time of year where Christmas is everywhere but it has been so commercialized and trivialized that it has lost its meaning to many. And yet, because it is Christmas, this is the perfect time to make the good news known to anyone we have an opportunity to share it with.
The story of Christmas is a story of good news. It is a story of hope. It is the story of how God became a man so that He could save a fallen world. Everyone was looking to God to do something big and amazing…and He did. He was unpredictable. He was born as a human, as a baby. No big flash from heaven; a baby in a manger.
The Savior of the world takes on the weakness and frailty of a baby. Not arriving as a full-grown man, but as a child who would become a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses and have compassion on us (Hebrews 4:15, 5:2). And if He didn’t come this way, could we ever believe that He could understand us and the temptations we face.
Why was God born to die? Why did He choose to take on the weakest, most vulnerable form?
Maybe it is because He doesn’t want to force us to choose Him. If the rocks cry out praise, and people fall at the feet of angels in fear and worship them, what makes us think that we wouldn’t fall down and worship God if He were to reveal Himself in all His glory?
The manger in which Jesus was born is the manger that the prophet spoke of:
Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care— but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.”
The ox was a clean animal and the donkey an unclean one, but both of them know who their master were. Israel, who were God’s chosen people did not.
Let us learn from the symbol of the manger. Let us remember that the Lord is worthy. Let us remember that He came to be known. He came as a baby to the world and He lived a sinless life. He died on a cross as the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). And He rose on the Third Day.
Behold the Child…a Savior is born!