The Birth Of Our Lord
If there ever was a time for God to show His majesty and glory around an event it was the birth of His only Son, Jesus. John the Baptist was born with a grand announcement at the temple in Jerusalem. He was born to a righteous priest. Jesus was different.
His birth was more secluded and quiet at least from an earthly perspective. This should reinforce the truth to us that appearances are very deceiving. What seems to everyone around Joseph and Mary is that this is just another ordinary couple expecting an ordinary baby who live in an ordinary little town in Judah. But what seems ordinary from a human perspective is actually very extraordinary. Appearances are deceiving. What seemed mundane from an earthly perspective caused all of heaven to turn out and sing.
It seems to me that when we compare this humble event against the backdrop of Christmas that the two, it seems cannot go together. In other words, God intentionally had Jesus to be born into a humble family with humble surroundings in a nowhere place. Why He did this, we can only speculate. Some say, Well, it’s to show us that Jesus is not only for the upper class but also for the lower class. Others believe that it was Joseph and Mary’s piety that was behind God’s selection. Regardless what your opinion is, you have to say that this humble birth and the gaudiness of 21st century Christmas don’t go together.
Most folks today don’t even think about Jesus Christ at Christmas. Most are more concerned with Black Friday and getting just the right gift. Most are concerned with wrapping paper and price tags. My challenge for us this year is to remember what we’re doing when we celebrate Christmas. We are celebrating the birth of King Jesus, the One who would give us the greatest gift which is the gift of salvation.
Romans 6:23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God Himself has given His people a free gift through His Son, this is the real meaning behind Christmas.
As we begin this morning unpacking the test, I want you to notice that in the scheme of the universe God is in charge. He rules the world. Next, notice that God also rules over the lives of individuals and finally, I want you to notice that in writing this account the way he does, Luke highlights the supreme power and authority of Jesus Christ.
Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to 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, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
1. God Rules the World (Luke 2:1-3)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
As we begin the birth narrative of our Lord it’s important to look back briefly in order to get an idea as to what God is doing.
It was a well known fact in Jewish tradition that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The problem is that Mary and Joseph don’t live in Bethlehem but in Nazareth of Galilee. I’m sure that Mary, being a good Bible student would have known this bit of information. She probably studied the events surround the birth of the Messiah especially carefully given her immediate circumstance. She may have wondered, How in the world is God going to pull this off? How will Jesus be born in Bethlehem when we live down here in Nazareth? Then one day, Joseph comes home from work and tells her of a new census put together by the emperor in which everyone must go to their city of origin to be counted and to pay a tax. Then it hit her, God is at work
So, how is God going to get the family to Bethlehem at just the right time for Mary to give birth to Jesus while they are there fulfilling OT prophecy? God shows His power over a pagan ruler. God rules over and uses evil men to do His will. They do His bidding. The decree comes from Caesar Augustus, better known as Octavian, who ruled alone from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. The administrator of the census was Quirinius governor of Syria, however, God’s hand was at work guiding these rulers. God controls all events at all times to bring about His will.
For many, that’s a new concept. To think that God uses unsaved evil pagan people who worship other god’s to do what the true God wants accomplished. God placed it into the mind of Caesar Augustus to take a census at just the right time when Mary was 9 months pregnant. God also had Mary and Joseph to be descendants of King David whose city was Bethlehem. Everything is working according to God sovereign decree.
Galatians 4:4 (ESV)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
2. God Rules Individuals (Luke 2:4-5)
 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to 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, who was with child.
Joseph and Mary are both descendants of King David. Both go to their homeland in Bethlehem. By this time, most theologians believe Joseph and Mary have been married and are now husband and wife. Luke uses the term “betrothed” to indicate that they had still not had intimate relations and wouldn’t until the baby was born.
Some believe Mary could have remained at home and that Joseph could have registered her for the census. However, I believe it was the Micah prophecy coupled with the cencus that caused Mary to make the hard 90 mile journey. Perhaps it was also the fact that she was very far along and Joseph knew she was about to give birth. Perhaps another factor was the gossiping people back in Nazareth who saw her pregnancy as a scandal that made Joseph bring her along. Or maybe it was all of the above?
The great NT commentator Leon Morris makes these remarks,
We should perhaps reflect that it was the combination of a decree by the emperor in distant Rome and the gossiping tongues of Nazareth that brought Mary to Bethlehem at just the right time to fulfill the prophecy about the birthplace of the Christ (Mi. 5:2). God works through all kinds of people to effect His purposes. –Leon Morris The Gospel According to Luke
It’s important to understand that God’s power over events is big enough to affect nations and even the world and also powerful enough to affect the acts of individuals as well. Joseph and Mary went up to Bethlehem because there was a census, indirectly. They went up to Bethlehem because God wanted them in Bethlehem, King David’s city.
Bethlehem is David’s city.
1 Samuel 20:6 (ESV)
If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.’
It was in this town that David was born and tended the sheep.
Everyone from David’s line had to make the trip to Bethlehem to be counted and to register.
God sovereignly directs Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to fulfill OT prophecy concerning the Messiah.
Micah 5:2 (ESV)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
This passage is not referring to King David because David had already died by the time Micah wrote. Micah’s king was off in the future somewhere.
But Micah’s King Messiah would come.
3. Luke’s Simplicity (Luke 2:6-7)
 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
As we read these verses we’re left wondering. It’s like we only get a very small part of the story. All Luke records of the greatest event to ever take place on earth is: The time came for her to give birth; she gave birth and wrapped Him in a blanket, set Him in a manger because the inn was overcrowded.
I truly believe Luke, by his simplicity, is setting us up for a paradox. The paradox is power in weakness found in Christ and the weakness of power found in Caesar Augustus.
Caesar could command the entire known world and they responded by obeying his decree to go to their hometowns to be counted and registered. For all intents and purposes Caesar Augustus was in charge…or was he? Prior to Ceasar Augustus, the Roman Empire for 20 years had suffered from discord and multiple rulers. Finally, when Caesar Augustus stepped into power the Roman Empire now was experiencing peace. The Pax Romana as historians call it, the peace of Rome.
In comparison we see the power, fame, and glory of Augustus and the weakness, humility, and obscurity of this little baby born in Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus commanded the known word and was very wealthy where Jesus as a baby was poor and lowly. Caesar’s glory was incomparable. Jesus was lowly and obscure.
and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Do you this Caesar Augustus at his birth would have ever been wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger? Of course not. He would have been born in a palace and been given the absolute best of everything.
If you want to read the rest of the story, the stuff that Luke seems to leave out, just read the NT account. Keep reading.
Next week we’ll look at real glory but for know, I want to take you to the Apostle Paul’s explanation of why Jesus was born in lowly circumstances to a poor family in a no name town. Why wasn’t there room for the family in the inn?
2 Cor. 8:9 (ESV)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Finally, to reinforce this point, I want to compare two verses of Scripture.
Luke 2:7 (ESV)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
John 14:2 (ESV)
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
Jesus took His place in a humble stable so that we could have the door to heaven open to us. He made Himself poor to give us eternal life. He suffered rejection so we could be accepted.
What are some things we learn from this amazing text of Scripter?
Appearances can be deceiving– We must be very careful that we don’t pass judgments based on appearances. The Apostle James gives us the same warning.
James 2:1-7 (ESV)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.  For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,  and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”  have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
We must not judge the end of anything by its beginning– The beginning of Jesus’ earthly life was veiled in poverty. When the veil is lifted at the end of time we see the reality of the glory of Jesus Christ.
Rev. 5:9 (ESV)
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
Rev. 5:12-13 (ESV)
saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
As we think about these things we must remind ourselves that we shouldn’t be too quick to make comparisons because we don’t know how God will work in the future.
(Much of this section came from James Montgomery Boices The Christ of Christmas 59-61)
You might feel as if your efforts for the Kingdom of God are feeble and meaningless and your evangelism is overall pretty pitiful. Take heart, God can use even the smallest effort. Or you may be thinking that your obedience to God isn’t at all what it should be. Take heart, God isn’t through with you yet and one day all believers will be like Jesus.