The Gospel of Luke: Jesus is Born
Luke 2:1-20 Glory to God in the Highest and on the Earth, Peace and Good Will
“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”
Luke 2:1-20 NASB1995
This is the most glorious night in the history of humanity. And the favored ones who hear it first in the Gospel of Luke, who are told about the birth of Jesus by an Angel and the heavenly host, are the lowly shepherds tending their flocks outside of Bethlehem. You could not get much lower and totally off the society pages than being a shepherd tending those smelly and obstinate sheep back in those days (and probably now). It is thought that those sheep were the ones being groomed to be temple sacrifices. The Angel and the heavenly host are there to tell the shepherds that the ultimate sacrifice has come into the world. Do not fear…joy….good news…a Savior…peace on earth…Glory to God!
The GOOD NEWS is for all people! It is for men and women, for kings and queens, for slaves and emperors, for prisoners and jailers, for CEOs and Senators, for ranchers and farmers, for sheep herders and cowboys, for pop singers and basketball stars, for grocery clerks and babysitters, and for the homeless man shivering in a doorway. It is for astronauts and the mechanics tightening bolts on their rockets, for scientists and artists, for business owners and business investors, for fathers and mothers, for triathletes and the disabled, for the lonely and the loved, for the young and the old. It is for Pharisees and Greek philosophers, for addicts and counselors, for indigenous peoples and explorers, for the Lost and for the Martyrs. It is for anyone who will listen, that they have been given the most precious gift in the world. The Good News is for YOU!!
So what do those blessed shepherds do? They immediately leave their flocks, go visit the child, humble themselves before God incarnate giving Mary another mystery to ponder, then come back to their fields and get right back to work. But now they are telling everyone a great story!
Did Christmas really happen on December 25? Naysayers these days love to throw out the accusation that Christians usurped a pagan tradition and made it into Christmas. My response to this accusation: What has survived longer, the completely unknown and lost pagan tradition that we supposedly “stole” or the beautiful true story of the Son of God coming into the world? The actual date doesn’t matter because the date we celebrate this event is what matters. Nothing is more uplifting to the soul in the heart of dark winter than to know that about 2,000 years ago our Redemption was at hand. That can be your response to the naysayers. As a former skeptic I can say with assurance that no amount of hard evidence would be enough to persuade some people, so don’t let them take the joy out of your day.
Rather than dig into some commentary and some insights, let’s end this wonderful night with the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “O Holy Night”:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
“O Holy Night” was written in 1847 by Adolphe Adam from a poem by Placide Capeau. The English lyrics were written by John Sullivan Dwight.
My next devotional examines the last relevant passage in Luke about the birth of Jesus, Luke 2:21-38, Jesus is presented at the temple. Next, I plan to explore John 1, which give us a completely different perspective on the incarnation of the Word.
Dear God - All I can say on Christmas Eve is thank you, thank you, thank you! Our Lord Jesus is born and our salvation is at hand! We believe in our salvation! Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
“O Holy Night” is in the public domain