Many people read Luke each year during the Christmas season. It is a very familiar passage of Scripture.
Many non-Christians can cite most of the details of the birth of Jesus. They are familiar with Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem for the census. People talk about the shepherds watching their sheep at night. Everyone knows about the manger scene and that Christ is born amidst barnyard animals.
Each year, we can walk through stores and hear songs such as, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Away in a Manger; O’ Little Town of Bethlehem; and Silent Night.”
The familiarity Jesus’ birth takes away from the impact of its truth.
Christmas is over. Today, we take down the decorations. Let’s stop and think. What just happened? We celebrate Immanuel, God with us. We celebrate God born in the flesh of a man.
Imagine being in the shoes of people in the first century, hearing the details of the birth of Christ for the very first time. Imagine being Theophilus. He is taught about Jesus, but Luke desires to have his faith to go deeper. He wants Theophilus to pour out his life to Jesus.
Theophilus is reading this account and hearing how God is born. Luke gives him the facts. Mary is a virgin. Gabriel, an angel who stands in the presence of God, appears and tells Mary she will have a child. The Holy Spirit of God overpowers her, and she is carrying the Son of God in her womb. The name for the child comes to Mary from God. She is to name her child Jesus.
After finishing the account of the birth of the forerunner to the Christ, Luke explains the details surrounding the birth of the Messiah.
With each point of the message, we will look at a few verses and see how it communicates an attribute of God. Then, we will talk about how the attribute of God applies to our life.
The first point is God is sovereign.
Luke writes of an interesting historical event. He tells us that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for a census to be taken. The census is to cover the entire Roman empire. Luke is thorough; he tells us that it is the first census taken while Quirinius is the governor of Syria.
This is an important detail. Messianic prophecy says the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
Jews in the first century look to Bethlehem for the Christ. Philip tells Nathanael, “We found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael says, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Nathanael is correct. The Messiah is not supposed to be from Nazareth. The Messiah is to be from Bethlehem. Philip should have said, We found Him of whom the Law and the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem.”
Mary lives in Nazareth, but the Messiah needs to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy. To get Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, God works in the heart and mind of Caesar Augustus to take a census. The ultimate result of the census is that the Jesus is born in Bethlehem, and not Nazareth, as God promises.
God times everything so Joseph and Mary will arrive in Bethlehem just in time.
God is sovereign! God controls governments, kings, armies, animals, and stars. God is conducting and overseeing every detail of the universe. God creates the idea for a census in the mind of Caesar Augustus, the ruling king of the world. God does it to fulfill His purpose and plan.
The truth of God’s sovereignty is to have a deep impact on our life. God wants us to know that He is in ultimate control over all things. God is in control of the president. God is in control of every world leader. No army marches unless God gives the go-ahead.
God is sovereign over the weather, nature, and every detail of life. God is orchestrating everything to “an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Ephesians 1:10).”
If we were alive in the first century, how would we view the census? Would we grumble and complain? We might have a good excuse to complain. We might be a week short of our delivery date for our first child. Would we rant and rave about Caesar Augustus? Would we do everything possible to ignore the law? Joseph and Mary did not.
Joseph and Mary trust God. They make the difficult 90-mile difficult uphill and downhill journey. People during that time average around 20 miles a day. It is likely with Mary’s pregnancy; it takes longer. Part of the trip is through the Judean desert which is hot in the day and very cold at night. They likely travel during the rainy season.
We often put our hope in this world. When we do, we make a big mistake. This world will disappoint us. Don’t hope in escaping taxes. Don’t hope to be rich. Don’t hope in good weather. Don’t hope for perfect health or long life. Don’t hope in government not taking a census.
Hope in God. Trust God that every event and circumstance, no matter how miserable or difficult, is being orchestrated for good. God’s sovereignty gives us the faith to know deep in our hearts, “that God causes all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
God is faithful to His promises.
God is faithful to His word. The Messiah is born in Bethlehem. But that is not the only fulfillment of a promise God makes. Both Joseph and Mary are of the family of David.
God promises David,
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12–13)
The prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah write that the Messiah is a descendant of David (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5–6).
God is faithful to His promise to David.
Bible Gateway website claims God makes 5467 promises in Scripture. Another website, Bible.com, claims there are 7,487 promises. Maybe there are more; perhaps there are less.
The number of promises is not nearly as important as the fact that God will fulfill every single one!
God is immutable. That means He does not change. He is faithful. God is fully committed to fulfilling every promise in the Bible. God is not a liar. God does not make a promise, then fail to fulfill His promise.
God’s nature is that He is faithful.
God is faithful; therefore, believe God. Believe His promises will come to pass. God’s promises don’t always take place when we want them to happen. Centuries come and go before God’s promise to Eve finds fulfillment in Christ. The same goes for Abraham and David.
What we see with God’s promise to David is as the Apostle Paul says, “For as many as are the promises of God, in Christ, they are fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
God’s timing and ways are perfect. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s promises to His saints will never pass away. Believe God.
Believe Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Believe all who are in Christ receive the promise of eternal life in His kingdom.
God is Humble.
Imagine what Joseph and Mary are thinking in their situation. They know God is sovereign. Every good Jew knows God is in control of all things. But, as the mother of the Messiah, Mary must wonder why God does not have a room at the inn.
Mary is very humble. Perhaps the thought of not being at the inn doesn’t even cross her mind. Because Mary is humble, it’s likely she sees the manger as being a great place for her to have her child. It is certainly better than no place at all. It is a roof over her head.
What about Theophilus? What does he think while reading about Jesus’ birth taking place in a manger? There cannot be a more unexpected place for Jesus to be born. He is a descendant of David. He is the future King of Israel. Yet, He is born in humble circumstances.
God’s sovereignty could dictate a completely different situation for the birth of the Messiah.
God’s nature is humility. God does not look at the externals of life.
God is humble; therefore, be humble. God is conforming us into the image of Jesus. We need to see each day as an opportunity to strive for humility.
Humble people are thankful for a manger and don’t expect a room at the inn. Humble people do not expect God owes them in any way.
Humble people look for God in the small places. There may be people who walk by the manger having no idea that the King of kings is present. Our pride will have us miss out on many things that God values.
Being important in God’s eyes is not based on the size of the checkbook, the make of our automobile, or the fashion of our clothing. Jesus is important to God because He is willing to obey God.
The dignity and majesty of the manger are found in Jesus. The specialness of the event is not the location, but the presence of the Savior.
We have much to learn about judging what is important and what is not. Don’t neglect what appears to be insignificant. God is at work in the most humble of places. Don’t ignore the small places. There is great beauty taking place in a slum when a child of God is present.
Jesus sets the example of not striving for the comforts of this world but finding joy in serving God. Be content with serving Him.
Luke continues the account by telling about the angel appearing to the local shepherds. It is similar to what happens when Zacharias and Mary encounter Gabriel.
They are afraid, and the angel tells them not to be afraid because he brings good news. Like Zacharias and Mary, the angel gives a sign so they may verify what he says is true. Go find the baby in Bethlehem, the city of David. He is wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The word for good news in Greek is gospel. God is announcing the gospel to the shepherds.
A Savior is born. He is Christ the Lord. Christ is the title of the Messiah. The shepherds hear that the Messiah is born and He is a Savior and a King.
First-century shepherds are everyday folk. They are the average blue-collar worker. They are not highly esteemed, but neither are they rejected. They are common. What is important is who God does not tell. He doesn’t announce it to rulers and princes. The religious leaders do not hear an announcement of the birth of Jesus. God tells common people. The gospel is for all people, not just the elite of society.
Know God is not a distant being. God is intimately involved with us. God does not show favor. God is present for all people God is present to the shepherds. He is not a distant God. God is intimately involved with people.
We see God is involved with Zacharias and Mary. They are common people who love God. We will see throughout the book of Luke that God involves Himself with all people. Jesus is for us here in Plainfield, NH, just as He is with the shepherds on the night of the announcement.
God is not like a celebrity, professional athlete, or billionaire. These people do not associate with the common people. God is not a respecter of persons.
We may not have an angel appear. However, we know God is present because He tells us that He is. Throughout the Psalms, we see people give testimony to the presence of God in their life. We enjoy the same God. God is present.
Suddenly! A multitude of angels appear and praise God. Imagine Theophilus reading this account. Imagine being the shepherds.
This is a historical event of great magnitude. It is as if the hosts of angels in heaven cannot help themselves. God gives the command, and they show up on the scene. They see God lying in a manger and they realize the Prince of peace is present in the same area as these shepherds.
The angels proclaim,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 1:14)
We can learn from the angels. Angels are creatures of heaven. They see God. They know God. They serve God. Angels are more powerful then we can imagine. Their response to the birth of Christ is praise and adoration.
Angels respond to the appearance of salvation by giving God the glory. We need to follow their example. The Bible is full of commands telling us to give God the glory.
The angels declare that peace from heaven is available to those who please God. It is not available to everyone. What pleases God is that we put our faith in the baby who lies in the manger. We trust that He comes to save us from our sins.
Please God, and receive His peace, by receiving the free gift of salvation He offers through Christ.
Please God by giving Him glory. God is good.
The shepherds find God’s word to them is true. They go straight to Bethlehem to see that which the Lord made known. Luke tells us that they went in a hurry.
They are like Mary. She learns her relative Elizabeth is pregnant and she hurriedly goes to visit Elizabeth. Mary believes what God says is true.
In the same way, the shepherds believe God and go straight to Bethlehem. They see the sign, and their faith is confirmed.
It must have been very, very exciting for them to find Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They find God’s word to them is true.
We can trust God’s word. Every time God speaks what He says is true.
God speaks to Zacharias, and he has a son. He spoke to Mary. Mary is pregnant and she finds Elizabeth also to be pregnant. God speaks to the shepherds; they found the Messiah.
God speaks to us. He is speaking right now through Luke’s gospel. Trust God’s word to be true. God is not a liar.
Jesus is the embodiment of truth. He is truth wrapped in human flesh. He is the way, the truth, and the life. We may trust Jesus!
The shepherds arrive in Bethlehem. They look for a manger and find a newborn baby. They tell of their experience in the field. They tell of the angel and what he says about the child. They tell of the host of angels giving glory to God.
The news from the shepherds gives assurance to Joseph. They confirm his dream in which an angel appears to him and says Mary’s child is an offspring of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
Imagine what it must have been like to be in the gathering of people in the manger and to hear of how the angels appear and send the shepherds to find the baby.
Luke tells us all who heard it are in wonder. Mary treasures everything and ponders it in her heart. God is wonderful. He works in ways that are amazing.
The shepherds return to the fields glorifying and praising God. They are full of worship.
We need not only sing and praise God to worship Him. We worship God when He fills our hearts with wonder and amazement. We worship God when we ponder salvation in our hearts. We worship God when we think about the angels telling the shepherds of Jesus or when we contemplate the amazing account of the birth of Christ.
God is worthy of our worship. Let’s allow thinking of Him and His nature to fill our hearts with admiration. Let’s be a people, like the shepherds, who read the testimony of Scripture and go about our day glorifying and praising God.
Let’s not only think about God during Christmas or Easter. Let’s allow Him to occupy our hearts, minds, and soul. Be filled with worship for our Creator and Savior. He truly is WONDERFUL!
God names Jesus. It is a name given in heaven to Gabriel. Gabriel tells Mary. Mary tells Joseph, and Joseph (Matthew 1:25), as the family authority, calls the child Jesus.
Scripture tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Therefore, put your faith in Immanuel. Immanuel means God with us. God comes to earth, dwells among us. Jesus dies for our sins and He rises from the dead.
God is sovereign. Therefore, hope in God.
God is faithful. Therefore, believe in God.
God is humble. Therefore, be humble.
God is with us. Therefore, live knowing God is present.
God is glorified. Therefore, give God the glory.
God is true. Therefore, trust God.
God is wonderful. Therefore, worship the God of wonders.
MAIN IDEA: Humbly put your faith and hope in God, who is worthy of our worship and praise.