Luke 2:1-5, “1 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.”
Have you ever thought how amazing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that He so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah's mother and father were living in Nazareth?
And that in order to fulfill His word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?
Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political movements and economic and social problems and of people with lots of power and prestige? If you have, don't let that make you discouraged or unhappy.
For we know from Scripture that all the grand political forces and all the giant economic powerhouses, without them even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God's little people—the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
God controls the whole world to bless His children, and this is called providence. Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that He seeks with all his heart. And to that end, He rules the whole world.
As Proverbs 21:1 says: "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will." He is a big God for us little people, and we have to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and rulers of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, so that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Calvary Road Luke 2:6–7, “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.”
Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have ordained that a room was available in the inn. Yes, He could have.
And Jesus also could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to His aid in garden of Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself.
The question is not what God could do, but what He wants to do. God's will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor. The "No Vacancy" signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake and mine. 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For your sake He became poor."
God rules all things—even motel capacities—for the sake of His children. The Calvary road begins with a "No Vacancy" sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and insults and the cross in Jerusalem.
And we must not forget that Jesus said in Matthew 16:24: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." We join him on the Calvary road and hear Him say in John 15:20: "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
To the one who calls out enthusiastically: "I will follow you wherever you go!" Jesus responds in Matthew 8:20, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a plush room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.
Fear Not Luke 2:8–11, “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.”
The angel said to Zechariah: "Fear not!" He said it to Mary: "Fear not!" And now he says it to the shepherds: "Fear not!" It's a natural thing for a sinner to fear. The more guilt we have, the more things we fear: fear of being found out for some deceit, fear that some ache and pain we have is God's judgment, fear of dying and meeting the holy God face to face.
But even though it's natural, God sends Jesus with the word: Fear not! Hebrews 2:14 says: Jesus became man "that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death have been held in lifelong bondage."
Doesn't this phrase liberate you in your daily life? If the worst fear—fear of death—has been taken away through the death of Christ, then surely God does not want us to fear the lesser things in life: job insecurity, having your savings dwindle, failing a test in school, being rejected by your friends, etc.
The message of Christmas is fear not! God is ruling the world for the greater good of his children. Believe his promises in Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall wear . . . Cast all your anxieties on God because he cares for you . . . Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?"
Rejoice! And in the place of fear Jesus puts joy. Faith in Jesus without joy is a contradiction in terms. Paul summed up the goal of his ministry like this: "for the advancement and joy of your faith." And he told the Philippians and Thessalonians, "Rejoice always, and again I will say rejoice."
Always? Yes. Not without tears of grief and pain. When my father died, I grieved. But I also had hope. And while it is very hard to describe, there was a kind of joy in God and his sovereign goodness that later on at his funeral I experienced. It is not wrong to be sad (weep with those who weep), but there is a special joy rooted in God's rule of love.
Peace for Whom? Luke 2:12–14, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13And 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 among those with whom he is pleased!"
Who is this peace for? There is a somber note at the end of the angels' praise. Peace among men with whom He is pleased. Without faith it is impossible to please God. So Christmas does not bring peace to all, only for those who believe in Jesus.
"This is the judgment," Jesus said in John 3:19, "that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil." Or as Simeon said in Luke 2:34 when he saw the child Jesus: "Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
O, how many there are who look out on a bleak and chilly Christmas day and see no more than that. Oh how many people are only concerned about their own welfare and darkness of their fleeting happiness and fleeting satisfaction and peace that does not exist.
John 1:11-12 says that Jesus came to his own and his own received him not, but to as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to as many as believed on his name. It was only to his disciples that Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
So I pray together with Paul in Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing". Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased: men who would believe.
Spreading the Light Luke 2:17–20, “17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”
John 1: 4-7, “In Him there is life, and the life is the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light that all might believe through him.”
If you are ever granted to see that light for what it really is, you will believe it. Everybody who knows the light is like John the Baptist who said: we have seen the light and testify to it. We have been lifted out of the darkness of our sin and guilt and fear into the bright light of his grace. What else can we do but tell others and spread that light?
To symbolize the coming of the light into our dark world and the spreading of the light through the world we will spread the flame of the Christ candle through the room. Are you spreading that light? You should every day because Christmas is actually all year round! Amen?