Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Lk. 2:1-14 NKJ)
Dear fellow redeemed,
When you consider the amount of details in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth it is very striking. He is very particular about the times and places.
Consider the dating of this momentous event. It was when Caesar Augustus decreed a census. At the moment, Quirinius was governing Syria. And the birth took place while they were in Bethlehem.
And consider all the locations he brings up. Joseph went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. It was there that Mary delivered her Son. The location of the child’s bed was a manger. It wasn’t in the inn, because there was no room for them there. And then there’s the announcement to the shepherds that accompanied the historic event. The time was at night. And the location was in that same country, out in the fields. And the angel appeared before the shepherds, and told them the location of the child, and that they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths.
What is the significance of this? Why did the Holy Spirit cause Luke to write so much about these details about times and locations? The beginning of Luke’s gospel helps us answer this question. There he writes, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”
Now we notice that Luke is writing this to Theophilus. Although there are various theories as to who this Theophilus is, his identity is unknown.
But the main point is that Luke desired to provide a historical account of Jesus. He did his research, not by reading second hand accounts in ancient books, but by conversing with eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, and the ministers of the word that had followed Jesus in His ministry and learned from Him. The disciple, Peter, was likely one of his chief sources, but also among others, he likely had Mary, the mother of Jesus herself as a source of information about Jesus’ life, particularly regarding the history that we hear today.
And so the details are given. The facts are shared. This is a historical account written for Theophilus, and is ours today. We know the time in which it happened. We know the places that this took place. Imagine Mary telling this story and describing all that had happened and the news from the angels that the shepherds had told her, all these things which she had kept and pondered in her heart.
You can take the path that Joseph and Mary took. You can walk the town in which Jesus was born, and maybe even visit the very spot of His birth, which many say is below the Church of the Nativity. You can take in the landscape around Bethlehem and picture the shepherds there tending their flocks under the night sky. And you can see the very same sky the shepherds saw where the angel appeared to share the good news; the sky that was filled with the heavenly angels singing “glory to God.”
This is history! God was born in human flesh, and once lay there in a manger in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths.
And the best news: He was born for you, to be your Savior. He is not a symbolic Savior, but a real Savior. The Christmas season brings with it much sentimentality, and rouses a variety of feelings. The nativity that sits on our altar, and the nativities that deck our homes, portray a beautiful scene of serenity. But it is more than sentiment. It is more than feelings and serenity. But what we see in those nativity, a reminder of the real birth of our real Savior, who is truly God entering the world, and who brings real peace to earth by taking away our sins, and thus reconciling us back to the Father. Once we were at enmity with God. But Jesus has come to take that enmity, to take our sins and their punishment, that we may have peace with God.
And so our sins, and sorrows, and pains in the world which are clearly very real, and we feel it, are answered by this real Savior born for us in Bethlehem.
What a Son that Mary gives birth to here, your Savior! Certainly, the woman that shouted to Jesus from the crowd spoke true words, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But Jesus speaks of those who are most blessed, He responded, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Yes Mary gave birth to her Son, and fed Him and cared for Him. You will not behold him on Mary’s lap, but you have something better, you behold Him in His gospel, through which He comes to you with His completed salvation! You who hear this gospel this evening of your Savior’s birth and His forgiveness and salvation for you, and the peace of God which He has won for you, you who hear these words and keep these in faith, are most truly blessed! You are blessed, because Jesus, and the real salvation He has won is yours. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.