The Birth of Jesus Christ
By Pastor Kelly Sensenig
M.R. DeHaan, Founder of Radio Bible Class, wrote a poem many years ago. It was entitled: Can This Be Christmas? I’d like to read it to you today as an introduction to our Christmas message.
What’s all this hectic rush and worry'
Where go these crowds who run and curry'
Why all the lights—the Christmas trees'
The jolly “fat man,” tell me please!
Why, don’t you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!
So this is Christmas, do you say'
But where is Christ this Christmas day'
Has He been lost among the throng'
His voice drowned out by empty song'
No. He’s not here—you’ll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.
But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, “Come in to stay.”
In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.
But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.
I’m tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I’ll go instead to Calvary.
And there I’ll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ—this Christmas.
I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.
In endless bliss we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ—not Christmas!
Christmas is not about worshipping Christmas but worshipping Christ. It’s all about the birth of Jesus Christ and why He has come into this world. We need to get back to the true meaning of Christmas – which is to remember the story of the birth of Jesus Christ!
The birth of Jesus Christ can be remembered in seven exciting ways.
A. The story (Luke 2:1-7)
1. It was a story of destiny.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:).”
In these verses we see that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for the Roman census. Joseph was a descendant of David (Luke 1:27). Since Joseph was a descendant of King David he needed to go back to David’s birth place for the census. The word “taxed” (vv. 1, 5) speaks of a census where a person would record their present residency and total income. It was a registry of a person’s place of dwelling that included their annual income. The purpose of a Roman census was to provide statistical data so the government could levy taxes. Some have argued that it seems strange that people were not registered in the places where they currently lived. However, other historical instances of the same practice are known. Rome took a census every fourteen years for both military and tax purposes, and each Jewish male had to return to the city of his fathers to record his name, occupation, property, and family.
Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. First, the couple knew she would have the Baby during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated at that event. Second, both of them knew that the Child was the Messiah. Third, Mary had made the commitment that she would be a part of the fulfillment of this divine prophecy. When Mary said “Be it unto me according to Thy word” (see Luke 1:38), it meant that from then on, her life would be a part of the fulfillment of divine prophecy. She was dedicating herself to God’s Word and the fulfillment of this prophecy. We too should commit ourselves to God’s will in such a way as this. We should be ready to say, “I am willing Lord.” Fourth, both Joseph and Marry knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Destiny was written all over the movements of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem in order to give birth to the Christ child was a movement of destiny. God’s plan was coming to fruition just as He had outlined centuries before in the great prophecies surrounding the birth of His Son.
Destiny was also written over the place where Christ was to be born (“the city of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:6). In these verses we see that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for the Roman census. Joseph was a descendant of David (Luke 1:27). Since Joseph was a descendant of King David he needed to go back to David’s birth place for the census. However, both Joseph and Marry knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They knew they were coming to the place where the ancient prophecy said Christ was to be born.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
In those days Judah has 1,000 family towns. As the song says, Jesus was “one small child in a land of a thousand dreams.” Every mother wanted to bring forth the Messiah. It was her hope and longing to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah which would be born in Bethlehem.
We know from the Old Testament record that David was also born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was the place where King David was born. This is why it was called the “city of David” (1 Sam. 16:1, 18-19; 17:12; 20:6). Luke 2:4 verifies this by also calling Bethlehem the “city of David.” In I Samuel 20:6 Bethlehem is actually called “David’s city.” It was here that David was born. It was in the fields around this town that he tended the sheep (I Sam. 17:15). This is very interesting for Jesus Christ (the Messiah and Savior of the world) was to come from the same line or lineage of David. Luke connected Bethlehem with David to show that Jesus qualified as the Messiah and that He was a true physical heir of David.
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
In this statement is hidden all the wealth of 1,000 years of history and prophecy. David would bring forth the King who would eventually rule over his people forever on a throne in Jerusalem! He was born in David’s line (Luke 3:31) and born in David’s city (see Luke 2:4) and will one day reign on David’s throne (see Luke 1:32)!
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”
“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun!
O’er every foe victorious,
He on His throne shall rest.
All blessing and all blest.”
Someone has said: History is His story! God was providentially moving Joseph and Mary at the right time to the right place! They came to this little obscure place where God’s Son was to be born. The movements and miraculous birth of Christ was a matter of reaching the destiny that God had designed for this family and child. Destiny was written all over the events of this Christmas scene. Christmas did not come by chance. It was destined to come according to God’s plan and in God’s way. We see this in the movements to Bethlehem and the birth of God’s Son.
This was an amazing story of providential destiny in every way, from the movement of Joseph and Mary, to the city where Christ was born. It was the decree of Augustus which had brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1). It was also given at exactly the right time in order that the Messiah might be born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy. It involved Jesus being born in the same place as his ancestor David and it involved remarkable timing to bring forth this birth which was predicted over 700 years before it happened (Isaiah 7:14). The virgin pregnancy was at the right time, the Roman census and taxation was at the right time, their journey was at the right time, they were in the place of Bethlehem at the right time so Christ could be born according to prophecy.
What a story! This was indeed a story of destiny!
In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight prophecies regarding Christ. He says, “The chance that any man might have ... fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 10 to the 17th. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.” (one hundred quadrillion). Stoner then suggests that “we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. If we would do this they will cover all of the state 2 feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly... Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up [that one marked silver dollar.] What chance would he have of getting the right one?” My friend, when you put all the prophecies regarding Christ together and see how they were meticulously fulfilled, one can only come to one conclusion. Their fulfillment was a miracle and this is certainly true in regards to Christ’s birth. It was destiny coming to pass and it was a miracle for it all happened according to a meticulous pattern.
2. It was a story of divinity.
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
In verse five we read about “Mary his espoused wife.” Luke the doctor and evangelist calls Joseph’s and Mary’s relationship a betrothal. This is significant for in Jewish custom the betrothal period was a time when the two partners were married legally be contract (Deut. 20:7; 22:23, 25, 28) but not sexually or physically tied together to consummate the marriage (Matt. 25:1-12). This physical union came six months after betrothal. During the betrothal period Mary was Joseph’s legal wife (see Matt. 1:20, 24). However, even though the two were husband and wife the betrothal relationship was continuing and the marriage was not yet consummate by sexual relations (see Matt. 1:18 – “before they came together”).
See Matthew 1:25
“And (Joseph) knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”
Joseph did not have any physical relations with Mary until she had given birth to Jesus. This is the reason Luke mentions Mary as only being “betrothed” to Joseph. This careful description speaks to us of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. It points to the divinity (deity) of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was not born of man. The blood of sinful man did not flow through His veins. It was the blood of God (Acts 20:28). Jesus was not tainted with humanities sin. He was one hundred percent God while living in the body of a man. His divinity or deity is protected by Luke’s statement. There can be no mistake about. Jesus was pure and free from the taint of man’s sin, so that He could one day become a pure and holy sacrifice for our sins, and provide a satisfying sacrifice that the Father would accept as payment for our sins.
Only the God-man could die the sinner’s death and make man right before God. If you take away the virgin birth of Jesus Christ as the liberals and modernists do you take away the birth of a child who would one day be a savior for the world! Jesus cannot be a Savior from hell unless He was virgin born. Jesus cannot be our Savior from hell unless He is God. It’s as simple as this! And if you don’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ then you are going to hell!
“Who is He in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?
Tis the Lord, O wondrous story!
Tis the Lord, the King of glory;
At his feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all.”
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
The virgin birth of Christ was the work of God! I do not think that Mary doubted the angel’s words (Luke 1:34) but merely wanted to know how such an event would be accomplished. After all, no person was ever born in the world apart from human conception of both sperm and egg. In Luke 1:35 we find the answer to Mary’s dilemma. The Holy Spirit would creatively bring about the physical conception of Jesus. There was no human element attached to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ! The “Holy Spirit” would create a supernatural conception in the womb of Mary through the power of the Highest (God Himself). God Himself, through the person of the Holy Spirit, would break the natural law of birth which He had made for the human race. By the way, only God can break His own laws. This is because He is God! Miracles occur when God breaks His natural laws. By the way, I believe in miracles! For I believe in God!
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Liberals say, “It can’t be!” But the Bible says, “It can be!” The Bible teaches that the virgin birth did take place by the miraculous power and intervention of God. There is no Christmas without a virgin birth! There is no salvation without a virgin birth.
The virgin birth protects Christ’s deity of Christ, His sinless sacrifice on the cross, and our salvation. No wonder the liberals, Christ deniers, and cults want to get rid of it. Yes, this miraculous conception and Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ was necessary because of Christ’s deity and preexistence.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
The liberals on the committee of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible actually translated the Hebrew the word virgin (“almah”) as “young woman” to give the impression that Mary may not have been a virgin. They admittedly followed the lexicons of Gesenius who rejected the miraculous. This is a great injustice to the Word of God. It’s also an attack of modern unbelieving scholarship to take away the virgin birth and miraculous from the Bible. I would not use the Revised Standard Version for this reason alone among many other reasons. If you carry the Revised Version you are carrying a Bible that is a perversion. Jesus was born of a virgin not merely of a young woman.
God’s human and earthly existence as a man cannot be created by the involvement of another man since the Bible suggests that sin is transmitted through the line of man. Romans 5:12 teaches that in Adam “all have sinned.” The message is clear. Because of man sin has come upon the human race. Furthermore, since Adam sinned man continues to be born a sinner by being linked to Adam’s original sin. Therefore a miraculous birth had to take place! Jesus could not be connected with Adam’s sin in any way. There could be no physical linkage to any male within the human race. God has to step into history and into the womb of a virgin woman and make something supernatural happen. He had to bring forth a conception in the darkness of a mother’s womb that was untainted, unaffected, and unparallel to all other human conceptions.
“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the virgin’s womb.”
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The “holy thing” is referring to the virgin birth and what the Holy Spirit produced by supernatural means. The virgin birth of this baby was a holy thing. It was a birth that would result from a supernatural conception where no sin was transmitted through the line of man. It was free from the taint of sin! There was no sin in Jesus.
That is why we sing:
“Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright, Round yon virgin Mother and Child!
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Jesus Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus Lord at Thy birth.”
This holy birth was the physical entrance of God or Emmanuel into the world (Matt. 1:23) who was free from the infusion of man’s sin and sinful nature. There was no involvement with man in this birth.
“Gentle Mary laid her Child, Lowly in the manger;
There He lay, The Undefiled, to the world a stranger.”
"In July of 1978, a little girl named Louise Brown was born in England. At five pounds 12 ounces, Louise was a tiny baby, but what made her birth truly extraordinary was that she was conceived outside the human body. Little Louise Brown was the first 'test-tube baby.' Man thinks that he is pretty smart. Well, I want to tell you that he is a dunce when it comes to what God has done. God alone gives life. Man can only play around with it in test tubes. Furthermore, man cannot produce a virgin birth in the womb of a woman. Only God can do it and only God has done it!
3. It was a story of delivery.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
There are two important facts related to this delivery:
a. It came in God’s time.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.”
The Bible says that Christ was born when “the days were accomplished.” We really don’t know how long Mary was in Bethlehem before the baby was born. Tradition says it was a short time but tradition is not always correct. The point is this. God’s timing was perfect concerning the arrival of this baby.
Galatians 4:4 declares:
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”
God worked in the womb of Mary and triggered the baby from her womb at just the right time. Doctors still do not know what actually triggers the baby to come forth from the mother’s womb. They have suggestions but they have no concrete answers. Why can’t we just believe that God is behind the birth of a baby? Many are too humanistic to believe this! Listen, God knows how to trigger a baby to come forth from the womb of a mother.
b. It came in God’s way.
Luke 2:7 says:
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Nothing took place without God’s providence and approval. The delivery came in the exact way God had planned. Yes, it came in God’s way.
This is demonstrated in four ways:
i. Christ's birth was superior (7a).
Jesus is called “first born son” of Mary. This indicates that Mary would have other children (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Mark 3:31; John 7:3-4; 2:12; Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21). Mary did not remain a virgin. The Bible is very clear on this. The first born son was always the son of inheritance and highest dignity (Gen. 25:31). Jesus was Mary’s first Son and this made Him a son of highest dignity and honor. The firstborn received great honor and privileges within the family.
We also read elsewhere that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16). This also means Jesus was the Son of highest dignity and rank. In fact, the Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15). This is not a title of birth but one of dignity and superiority that reflects the position of the firstborn son in a family. As the “firstborn” Son of Mary, the only begotten Son, and the firstborn of every creature, Christ could maintain his dignity and honor as the eternal God. Any way you see Christ’s birth, you come to the conclusion that Jesus was the superior One, and One of highest dignity. He was indeed Lord of all and King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) when he was born!
ii. Christ's birth was sympathetic (7b).
The birth of Jesus is filled with the sympathy and love of Mary for his firstborn son. Her actions of tenderness and love indicate her motherly sympathy for her child. Mary loved Jesus as any normal mother would love her child. Her actions of sympathy indicate this.
She “wrapped him in swaddling clothes” (strips of white cloth). Normally mothers wrapped their newborn babies in wide strips of cloth to keep them warm (Ezek. 16:4). With no midwife to help, Mary chose to personally wrap baby Jesus in long bands of cloth (“swaddling cloth”) after giving birth to him. This was an expression of her sympathy and tenderness toward baby Jesus. Being wrapped in strips of cloth was important, for this was the way the shepherds would recognize the infant (see vs. 12). Some infants were actually bound up in this way to keep their limbs straight and unharmed.
Luke 2:7 also states that she “laid him in a manger.” This too was an action of love and care. The “manger” was actually a crib where animal fodder was poured and where animals fed. The Christ Child was placed in a manger from which livestock fed. Jesus, the Lord of Glory, the eternal God, was born on the backside of Bethlehem in an animal stall or enclosure where animals lived and was placed on a trough where animals fed. You can see ancient stone troughs even today as you travel in the Holy Land. It is probable that such a trough cradled the Infant Jesus. Many times a stall would be linked to an inn. Some tradition suggests that the manger was actually a cave. However, most homes in Israel had two parts, one for the family and another for the household animals. The same was true for an inn. It’s quite possible that this was the location of the manger
iii. Christ's birth was secluded (7c).
There are two truths related to this secluded birth.
Joseph and Mary humbled themselves by allowing their first child to be born in a secluded smelly animal stable where the animals ate. This is the wonder of the ages. It must have broken Mary’s heart to give birth to her first son in such a place as this. She certainly must have had dreams of a normal birth in pleasant surroundings. However, her dreams did not come to pass. It was God’s will that came to pass instead of the dreams and hopes of Mary! God is not interested in our dreams but His decisions. God wants to bring His sovereign purposes to pass in our lives. Many times we must humble ourselves and relinquish our dreams for His plans and goals related to our lives, even when this means humiliating circumstances.
The fact that Jesus was born in a stable suggests poverty, lowliness, and even rejection. This too is emphasized in Scripture.
2 Corinthians 8:9
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
There was no room for Joseph and Mary in the inn. Therefore, they had to settle for the humble surroundings of a stable. For many today at this Christmas season there is no room for Christ in their hearts and lives. They are not willing to humble themselves, repent of their sins, and receive Christ as their Savior. The Bible says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6). If we will humble ourselves before God and cast our faith upon His Son then we too can be saved!
In spite of the humble surroundings of animals and stink she lovingly cared for her firstborn baby in these humble surroundings. It was love! It was sympathy! It was humility!
Then too, Christ also expressed His own humility when He was born into this world in a manger.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:7 that Christ “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Christ relinquished His glory as the eternal Son (John 17:5) to come and be born in a smelly stable. This is the greatest act of humility the world will ever know.
“Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”
The Bible once again says there was “no room for them in the inn.” This speaks of rejection. What a remarkable revelation this is. Bethlehem was crowded when the time for Christ’s birth was ready to take place. The only place they could find to stay was the stable of an inn. The people had no time for the birth of the Christ Child. They had no time for Jesus Christ. From the beginning to the ending of Christ’s life (Acts 2:23) people rejected Him as the Savior and the Lord of Glory.
“No room only a manger of hay!
No room here in this world turned away.
No room! No Room! No Room!”
But Think of this. God visited our planet in the Person of a helpless Baby, and in the poverty of an ill-smelling stable. Oh the wonder of it!
Darby expressed it nicely:
“He began in a manger, and ended on the cross, and along the way had not where to lay His head.”
Jesus was born in a stable and he slept in the trough where cows and animals ate their food. Bethlehem went to sleep that night indifferent to the event that would take place in a stable and change the world of mankind. In a small place Bethlehem in a stable, among the thousands of Judah, there was born a Savior. Jesus had come all the way from Heaven to rescue man from hell. And what did He get? A stable! There was no welcome. He gave up the halls of heaven to enter a smelly stable.
Now think of these words: No room! No room! These words and the whole experience were like an omen, or a preview, of how men would respond to their Savior.
John 1:11 says:
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
The majority of Christ’s own people had no room for Him in their hearts and lives when He arrived. The truth is that today they still don’t have room for Him! Even during the Christmas season many still do not have room for Christ. Many are dreaming of a white Christmas but they need to start dreaming of a right Christmas! The right Christmas is that a Savior was born who would one day die on a cross to take away the penalty for man’s sin.
Not long ago, a professor of psychology in one of our great universities gave a word suggestion test to his class of 40 students. He instructed them to write the word "Christmas," and all the class did so. "Now," said the professor, "right after the word 'Christmas' write the first thought that flashes through your mind regarding that day." When the papers were turned in, such answers were given as "tree," "holly," "mistletoe," "presents," "turkey," "holiday," "carols," and "Santa Claus," but not one had written, "the birthday of Jesus."
As there was no room for the baby Jesus in the inn, there is no room for Him today in the celebration of Christmas. Many have lost sight of what Christmas is all about. Secular humanism disguises Christmas as giving to others or as kind acts rendered to others – goodwill toward other men. People talk about Santa Clause, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and Christmas trees. These things do not represent Christmas! My friend, the vast majority of people in the world today still do not have room for Jesus Christ in their hearts and lives. They want Christmas without Christ. They want to now call Christmas “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. Why? It’s because they have no room for Christ in their hearts and lives!
There was no room for them in the inn! What a telling story this is of our generation today in which we live! Times have not changed. People have not changed. They still do not want Christ to be part of their lives. This is true of the unsaved who live all around us.
John 12:37 says: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10 speaks of those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” People still have no room for Him today. They do not want Jesus Christ and His salvation. They have no room for Him in the schools. They have no room for Him in government. They have no room for Him in the liberal media. They have no room for Him in Christmas. There is no room for Jesus Christ in the hearts of the lost today.
How about our own personal lives as Christians? Do we make room for Him in our lives on a daily basis? Do we take time in His Word? Do we pray to Him? Are we living out our personal dreams, our goals, and our wishes instead of God’s plan for our lives? There are many Christians who do not give Him room in their lives. No room. This too becomes apparent in the lives of carnal Christians as they live for themselves and do not fellowship with Christ as they can and should.
Revelation 3:19-20 is actually directed to Christians and says:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
God loves you! He wants you to repent of your sin and give Him room and first place in your life today? There comes a time when even Christians must give Christ full control of their lives (Rom. 12:1-2). There comes a time when a Christian must fully yield to God and turn his life over to Him. Will you give Him room in your life today?
B. The scene (vv. 8-9)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
1. It was an earthly scene.
In these verses we see a familiar earthly scene. The angle came to declare the message of Christ’s birth to the shepherds on the Judean hillsides, who were watching their flocks of sheep, protecting them from robbers and wild animals (“keeping watch over their flock by night”). This seems to be a common earthly scene of shepherds, who were lowly and poor, instead of people who were linked to royalty and riches. It’s interesting that God selected hardworking, down-to-earth, common people to be the first to hear about His Son’s birth and arrival into the world. This tells us that God is for the common person and that He came into the world to save those who were ordinary people.
Jesus said in Luke 4:18:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
The earthly scene causes many people ask, “When was Jesus Christ born?” Some suggest that it could not be in the dead of winter or the shepherds would not have been out at night with their sheep. This would be true unless it was a warm winter evening. Matt. 2:19 makes it clear that Jesus was born near the time of Herod the Great. Josephus (Jewish historian who lived shortly after the days of Christ) mentions that Herod’s death occurred between an eclipse and Passover (Antiq. 18.167). The only eclipse recorded in this period was in March 4 while Passover would have been mid-April. So Jesus was probably born at least a few months before spring.
Actually, we don’t know when the birth of Christ was. We probably won’t know until we get to Heaven. However, the date of His birth is irrelevant. The Scripture does not say when He was born; the important thing is that He was born! The celebration of Christmas on December 25 became the church’s way to celebrate Jesus’ birth and introduce an alternative celebration to a popular pagan feast which took place on the same date.
2. It was an evening scene.
It’s also interesting that the declaration of Jesus’ birth came at night (“by night” – vs. 8). Yes, it was physical darkness, but there was also a spiritual darkness which overshadowed the world. Man was lost in sin and needed a Savior to rescue him from hell. The world was a dark place and it would take Jesus Christ to free man from his sinful state and condition. The evening scene and announcement of Christ being the Savior reminds us how He came into a world of darkness or blindness to free mankind from his sins.
“I am the light of the world.”
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
3. It was an eventful scene.
It must have been some scene when the radiating glory of God filled the sky. Jesus gave up this radiating glory in His kenosis or self-emptying when He came into this world and was born in poverty as a pauper within a stable (Phil. 2:7). Jesus did not give up His deity but the outward visible display of His deity or glory that He once possessed in Heaven. However, the brilliance of God’s holiness and deity was displayed at the birth announcement to indicate that God was invading the planet in the person of the baby Jesus Christ. For this reason the glory of the Lord shown all around the shepherds in a spectacular display of magnificent light. What a declaration and scene this was! It must have been a sight to behold when God invaded the planet!
The heavenly visitation of this angelic being was accompanied with the radiance of God’s divine glory (a bright light portraying God’s matchless holiness, deity, and presence) which God had previously portrayed in the Shekinah glory of the Old Testament. God’s light of glory appeared in a cloud and within the holy of holies within the tabernacle and temple (Ex 16:10; 20:18; 40:34; II Chron. 7:1; Ezek 1:27, 28).
“And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”
The Shekinah glory of God’s presence shone out in the open fields beneath the Syrian stars! God manifested His presence at the birth announcement of His Son to show that God was coming into the world. The baby born in Bethlehem was none other than the Lord of Glory. He was the incarnation of God’s very being and existence.
Hebrews 1:3 says:
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person …”
Of course, Jesus gave up this radiating glory in His kenosis or self-emptying when He came into this world and was born in poverty as a pauper within a stable (Phil. 2:7). Jesus did not give up His deity but the outward visible display of His deity or glory that He once possessed in Heaven. However, the brilliance of God’s holiness and deity was displayed at the birth announcement to indicate that God was invading the planet in the person of the baby Jesus Christ. It’s for this reason that the glory of the Lord shown all around the shepherds in a spectacular display of magnificent light. What a declaration and scene this was!
The outward visible display of God’s glory must have been a sight to behold. Can you imagine how is must have been? At one moment the night was pitch black and then all of a sudden the sky was filled with the brilliant light of God’s radiant glory! The outward visible display of God’s glory must have been breathtaking to witness. Can you imagine how is must have been? At one moment the night was pitch black and then all of a sudden the sky was filled with the brilliant light of God’s radiant glory!
“Shepherds saw the wondrous sight,
Heard the angels singing;
All the plains were lit that night,
All the hills were ringing.”
C. The Savior (Luke 2:10-11)
The whole spectacular scene of God’s radiant glory brought fear (terror) into the hearts of the shepherds.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
It’s no wonder the shepherds were terrified! The angel wanted to calm the hearts of the shepherds and exclaimed the famous words, “Fear not.” This is one of the “fear nots” of the Christmas story (Luke 1:30). God says that we do not have to fear His presence and plan for our lives. God is in control! This is good to know. And God was in control at the first advent of His son into this world. The reason the shepherds did not have to fear was because of the declaration that the angel was about to share with them about Christ coming into the world to be the Savior.
The old Scotch hymn sums up this point:
“While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
“Fear not,” said he for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
To you and all mankind.”
The angel gave a two-fold declaration of good news and great joy! It was a declaration of “good tidings” (good news) that the Savior had come into the world and a declaration that should being “great joy” to the hearts of mankind who were in need of His salvation. The declaration revealed that Christ had come into the world and brought the promise of salvation to all mankind. The Great Commission is seen in the Christmas story. Christ is said to come into the world so He might be the Savior for all mankind (“which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
This angelic declaration of salvation is still good news for us today and it’s something that should bring great joy into our lives at this Christmas season. Luke’s Christmas “joy” is associated with salvation. This news was to be proclaimed to “all the people” (Luke 2:10). This not only included the people of Israel (Matt. 1:21) but people throughout the entire world (Mark 16:15). There was an obvious hint that the new born Savior and his salvation would be for all mankind.
1 John 4:14
“And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”
The angel messenger declared there was no reason to fear since the Savior had come into the world. What a Savior!
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
This was another exciting event associated with the birth of Christ. It revolved around a Savior!
“A Baby’s hands in Bethlehem
Were small and softly curled,
But held within their dimpled grasp
The hope of all the world.”
Let’s set the record straight! Jesus Christ was born into this world in order to be man’s Savior. Man needed a Savior and Jesus was the only Savior that could deliver or rescue mankind from the consequences of his sins.
Matthew 1:21 states:
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
This means that Jesus came into the world to save man from the consequences of his sins. First, Jesus came to save us from sin’s penalty. Jesus Christ entered this world in order to rescue man from the penalty of his sins which is nothing less than suffering the penalty of the second death and damnation in hell forever. Jesus came to save us from the penalty that we deserve for our sins which is hell. He did not come to rescue us from a low self esteem or negative self image or from poverty! He came to save us from hell! Let’s get the salvation message straight! Let’s stop beating around the bush! Jesus came to save us from hell fire and brimstone! He came to rescue us from eternal damnation and judgment.
· If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
· If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
· If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
· If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
· But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
Second, Jesus came to save us from the sin’s power. He came to save us from the power of sin that controls our lives. He came to save us from the strongholds of sin. Jesus is the great Savior! You can be saved from sin’s penalty and power. Oh what a Savior! The baby in the womb was to become the Savior of lost humanity. He was born to die and destined to become the Savior of lost humanity.
Dr. J. A McDougall tells about a young woman who was dying from tuberculosis: "Every day her condition grew worse, yet she clung to life. Toward the end of February, she became nauseous. I was stumped. A senior medical consultant asked me if she could be pregnant. "To my astonishment it was true. She was pregnant. A chest X-ray showed the growth of the TB cavity had stopped. But why? What was the reason? Her diaphragm was pushing up against her diseased lung to make room for the child she bore. So in actuality - "The child saved her."
In one sense, the child that was born into the world, called Jesus, was born to save us. Now he did not save us as a baby but he was born to die on Calvary’s cross in order to save us and keep us from going to hell. He was born to die upon Calvary! Let us never forget this! Jesus was born to die upon Calvary.
A man became so intoxicated one night that he stumbled and fell through the open door of a stable. He woke up the next morning bewildered by his strange surroundings. Finally it dawned on him where he was. He was very hungry, and he tried to think of a neighbor who might give him a meal. "No," he muttered, "I'm afraid they'd say I've fallen too low." Just then he heard some bells ringing, and he suddenly realized it was Christmas Day. What was that story again about the shepherds, the manger, and the angels' message? He thought, I'm not the first one to sleep in a stable. Recalling his early training about Christ who had come into the world to save the lost, he wondered if the reason Jesus first appeared in a stable was to remind the world that he could help a poor fellow like him. Right there he knelt in the straw and prayed, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." That poor drunkard found God in a manger.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Here we have a theological teaching in miniature form. The words Savior … Christ … Lord express an important theological teaching. These three titles together summarize the saving work of Jesus and His sovereign position.
“Saviour” reminds us of the name of Jesus. The name Jesus actually comes from Hebrew origin meaning Jehovah is Savior (Matt. 1:21). The point is this. Jesus is the Savior and He had to come into this world as a man in order to bridge the gap between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
*However, Jesus could not be the Savior if he was not the Christ.
“Christ” (Christos) literally means “anointed” and refers to the Messiah. The Hebrew word for messiah (“anointed one”) refers to someone who has been consecrated by God. The Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word for messiah is “Christos” which means in English, the Christ. The Bible clearly prophesies that the coming Messiah would actually be equal with God the Father in His existence as the One true God (Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 7:14). The Messiah (Christ) was revealed in Scripture to actually be God when He arrives on the world scene. The fact that Jesus is the Christ points to the fact that He is indeed God in the flesh. This official title given to Jesus points to the fact that He was the long-awaited Messiah. He was the One to whom Moses and the prophets declared should come. Jesus was the goal of Old Testament revelation.
*However, Christ could not be the true Christ if He was not Lord!
“Lord” (kurios) means supreme authority and ruler. This title indicates that Jesus was the sovereign ruler of the universe when He came on to the world scene. He was God incarnate - the supreme ruler of the universe. Jesus shared the same existence with the One true God. He was the Lord. Think of this. A helpless Babe, and yet, Lord of all! What an amazing Savior we have. Here was a baby who was the Creator! Here was a baby who was the sovereign and sustainer of the universe!
Now think of this. If Jesus was not the Christ and the Lord then He was not the Savior. Jesus had to be both Christ and Lord to save our souls. The cults deny that Jesus was the Christ who came in the flesh. They deny that He was Lord of all!
1 John 4:3 gives us this warning:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (That Jesus Christ has come to reveal God to us) is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
The key question at the Christmas season is this: Who is Jesus? Is Jesus merely “an Example,” “a good Man,” “a wonderful Teacher”; or is He the Christ who has come in the flesh to reveal God to us? Is He the Lord who has come to dwell among us? Is Jesus really God who has come down in the flesh to save us? You can tell whether or not a person is for Christ or against Christ by asking them this question: “What do you think about Jesus Christ?”
“What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.”
D. The sign (Luke 2:12)
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
I will never forget the sign that I read while crossing south of the border. It read, “Free air – everything else will cost you something.” This was an unusual sign. Well, there was another unusual sign that took place in Bethlehem long ago. It was a sign that the shepherds would see when they arrived at Bethlehem.
What was the sign? Generally speaking, it was a sign of a lowly and humble birth for a king. The uniqueness of the sign was the rarity of finding a king wrapped in cloth strips, lying in a manger, instead of finding a king born in a palace of royalty, covered with expensive garments. This sign brought great amazement and wonder to the shepherds. It will be the wonder of the ages! It will be the wonder of eternity! Jesus as the Messiah and Savior came in the weakest way possible. He came as a baby.
George Macdonald put it this way:
“They all were looking for a King
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.”
It is doubtful that the shepherds had ever seen a baby in such an unlikely place as a stable, especially the prophesied King of Glory. This indignity was reserved for the Lord when He came into our world. It truly was a sign of wonder and amazement.
Apparently God gave this sign to confirm the shepherd’s faith. The King and Savior would be found in a stable surrounded by oxen and other animals. He would not be dressed in the robes of a royalty child but the traditional white cloths that babies were wrapped in (Ezek. 16:4). He would not be waited upon by numerous attendants but would only be with Mary and Joseph. The sign of a lowly birth was what God intended to convey to the shepherd’s and to the world.
It’s interesting that these bands of white cloth were also used in wrapping the bodies of the dead. Perhaps the mention of these swaddling clothes at Christ’s birth was a reminder that He was actually born to die. He would one day be wrapped in these cloths when He gave His life for our sins.
Matthew 27:59 says:
“And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.”
The crib, cloth, and cross were all providentially ordained by God. The later gift of myrrh from the wise men (Matt 2:11) also indicated that Christ was born to die upon Calvary’s cross. Myrrh was a bitter herb pointing to Christ’s bitter and harsh death on Calvary’s cross. There could be no mistake about it. Jesus came into this world in order to die for sinners and save them from hell! Let’s get back to Christmas! The real Christmas! I’m dreaming of the right Christmas.
This indignity was reserved for the Lord of glory when He came into our world. It truly was a sign of wonder and amazement.
“Down from His glory, ever living story,
My God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name;
Born in a manger to His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony!”
E. The sermon (Luke 2:13-14)
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
This was quite a sermon and one that was filled with praise. Praise and preaching should go together. Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host appeared praising God as they spoke forth words of praise. The text does not actually say that this angel choir was singing. We do know that the angels sang and praised God at the time of creation (Job 38:7). In this episode the angels were apparently praising God as they spoke forth these wonderful words of praise. They praised God at His first creation of the earth but now they are seen praising God for sending His Son into the world to make new creations out of sinners.
Their praise, known generally today by the title, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, catches the full significance of the birth of the Baby Jesus Christ.
“Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.”
The angels praised God with the words that they delivered. It was a sermon of praise.
The angel’s sermon had a three-fold message:
a. Praise of God
The text says the angels were “praising God” (vs. 13) and saying, “Glory to God in the highest (highest Heaven).” This all speaks of praise. The angelic choir was praising God who lived in the highest Heaven and was bringing glory to His name for the purpose of His plan of salvation which was being brought to fruition on the earth.
God’s plan of salvation is cause for praise - praise to God! Have you recently praised and thanked God for allowing His Son to come into the world, so He could die upon the cross? Do you personally praise and thank God for your salvation on a continual basis? The angels praised God for His Son and salvation. Certainly we should do the same today.
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
“Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
“Songs of praises
Songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee!”
b. Peace of God
The choir then made the declaration of peace on earth (“on earth peace” – vs. 14). The kind of peace the angels were singing about was the peace man could now have with God due to the Savior’s arrival. It was a peace related to salvation. It was not peace between nations and people but a peace that the saved sinner could have before God because of the Savior who had come into the world.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
If you are one who has come to Christ and taken him as Savior, you can know that God is now at peace with you. When Christ came the first time He brought salvation’s peace which involved peace before God though His sacrifice on the cross. When Christ comes the second time He will come as the Prince of Peace by putting down all unrighteousness and rebellion in the world (Isaiah 9:6). He will establish peace on the earth. However, the peace of Christ’s first coming has nothing to do with world peace. It has to do with salvation’s peace or the peace that a believing sinner can have before God.
c. Pardon of God
The angel choir further spoke about peace and “good will toward men” (vs. 14). Today we are told to have the Christmas spirit of good will toward men. Many think that Christmas is all about doing acts of good will (kind favors) toward others but this once again misses the whole point of Christmas. The message of Christ’s entrance into the world speaks of God’s good will or favor expressed toward a lost human race. It’s not about man’s good will, but God’s good will or grace expressed toward people, who are going to hell! It’s about God reaching down to man and demonstrating that He is willing to pardon mankind of his sins. God was stepping down to man so that man could be pardoned and now possess a peaceful standing before a holy God through Jesus Christ.
The Biblical phrase “good will toward men” means that people are the objects of God’s goodwill and favor. This is the amazing grace of the Christmas story. God came down to save people though His Son (John 3:16). They become the objects of His goodwill, favor, or grace.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
This is the Christmas story of good will! It is God’s good will which is actually grace to the highest degree! Friend, it’s God who has been good, since He has expressed His grace to a lost human race going to hell.
E. The search (Luke 2:15-16)
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
I remember searching for many country churches when I was involved in a music group. We traveled all over the east coast one summer and sang in many churches. Sometimes they were hard to find since they were stuck back in the rolling hills of the countryside and between the cornfields. In this Christmas scene we find that the shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem and the Bible says “they came with haste” to find the Christ child. The verb “found” suggests that the shepherds were searching for the Christ Child. Apparently the shepherds apparently knew what to look for (vs. 12). After all, they were given the sign. There would be a newborn Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger and eventually the shepherds found Him! This was truly a sight to behold when they found baby Jesus. They had found Mary, Joseph, and the baby, the King of all the ages, lying in a manger. They had found the babe! They had found the Christ! Let me ask you a question. Have you found Him? Do you know Him?
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.”
F. The sharing (Luke 2:17)
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”
Have you "made known" to others the true meaning and message of Christmas? After seeing the sign and hearing what was spoken to them by the angels, the shepherds wanted to share this scene and saying with others, concerning the birth of the Christ child and Savior. They spoke of how they had found a baby in a manger wrapped in strips of white cloth. No doubt they spoke about the sign, the saying, and the Savior which they had heard. It was such a wonderful message and glorious experience! Have you shared the true message of Christmas with someone this week? Are you ready to take this message to those who truly are in need of Christ? Will you pray for opportunities to share this message with others?
1 Timothy 2:5
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
When we understand that Jesus Christ was born to die for the lost, in order to bridge the gap between God and believing sinners, we will be ready to declare this message to others, so they too can receive of His wonderful salvation. There is a message of missions in Christmas! We are to share with others the true meaning of Christ’s birth. He was born to die upon Calvary. The shadow of the cross was upon the cradle.
“He was born in a shadow of a tree,
The tree of Calvary.”
G. The speculation
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
When someone speculates they are engaging their mind in deep thought, reflection, and meditation. This was certainly true after the Christmas story was told to Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds.
Their speculation can be seen in three ways:
a. It brought response.
The Bible says “and all they that heard it wondered” (vs. 18). My friend, the message of the humble and humiliating birth of Jesus Christ into this world is a message that should bring great wonder and amazement to our minds and hearts. Oh the wonder of it all! Oh the wonder of it all, that God should love me! To think that God send His only beloved and eternal Son to become a man, so unsaved mankind might be redeemed, We should never get over what God has done for us! It should stir our hearts and never cease to amaze us.
b. It brought reflection.
The Bible records these words: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (vs. 19). The story, sign, Savior, and saying caused Mary to reflect and meditate upon the most amazing story that the world has ever known. To think that the Savior of the world had entered this world through her womb was something to mediate upon. There was much to ponder in Mary’s heart. Someone tried to capture her heart when they wrote:
“Mary did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You've kissed the face of God?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
That your baby boy will one day rules the nations?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you?”
That’s a lot to ponder!
c. It brought rejoicing.
The text goes on to record: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God” (vs. 20). The birth and entrance of the Savior into this world should bring great rejoicing and praise to our hearts at this Christmas season and all year round. We should send up praise and glory to God for His “unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Christ was born some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. However, this birth will mean nothing to you unless Jesus Christ is born in your heart through personal faith in Him.
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
“Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.”
The old Christmas hymn is true. Jesus Christ was born into this world, so you could ultimately be born again, though the infusion of His life in yours. Jesus was born to die on the cross paying the penalty for your sin and mine. He rose again the third (1 Cor. 15:3-4), so that He can give to you the gift of eternal life, through the new birth. Do you want His gift of salvation and eternal life today? If so, express personal faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and He will be born in your today!
“O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in:
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tiding tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.”