This is the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, and Christmas focuses on the birth of Christ. So many people know something about the birth of Christ. But most people don't know all of the rich details that Luke provides. Luke is a remarkable historian. His selectivity under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is rich and profound and we are all being enriched as we study this.
Luke 2:1-7, “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.”
“He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room available for them at the inn.”
Well as far as Joseph and Mary were concerned, their circumstances made the "no vacancy" sign in Bethlehem all the more severe since Mary was about to deliver a baby. This young couple, Joseph probably being sixteen and Mary fourteen years of age; the two of them had journeyed about one hundred and forty kilometers from their home in Nazareth.
And when they came to Bethlehem, it says in verse 7, there was no room for them. Nine months pregnant, in a matter of a few days to deliver a baby, and no place to stay. No relatives awaiting with a warm home. It was late fall or early winter. And that note is symbolic of the future for Jesus. As far as Jesus is concerned there's still a "no vacancy" sign hanging on this world.
Reviewing briefly, a startling event happened in Luke 1:26. In the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel came to a city in Galilee. It was the town of Nazareth. The angel came directly to a virgin, a fourteen-year-old girl named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph who was a descendant of King David.
And Gabriel said, "Hail favored one, the Lord is with you.” Of course, she was greatly troubled and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. She is afraid. The angel says don't be afraid, you will conceive in your womb, you will bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus." Jesus means savior and He will save His people from their sins, as Matthew records it.
Luke 1:32-35, "He will be great, He will be called the Son of the Most High." The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom will have no end." Of course, this young girl Mary, said to the angel, "How can this be since I'm a virgin?" The angel said, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and He shall be called the Son of God."
The baby would be miraculously conceived by God. The baby would be the Son of God in human flesh. When Mary became pregnant and Joseph found out about it, he was shocked because there was no explanation for her pregnancy. But an angel appeared to him, in Matthew 1:20, and said, "Don't be afraid to take her as your wife because that which is conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.”
And she's going to bring forth a child named Jesus and this child will save His people from their sins. And further, His name will be Immanuel which means God with us." Now in Luke 2, this prophecy has come to pass. Mary is full term and she in this passage gives birth to the baby Jesus. Luke 1:7, "She gave birth to a son." That's it, it was like any other birth. But the child was not like any other child.
First, the world setting, Luke 2:1-3, “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.” God brought together all the components of the birth of Messiah, at the right time, at the right place.
God moved this godless Caesar who knew nothing about the Old Testament, nothing about the coming of Messiah, to play a critical role in the fulfillment of prophecy at the birth of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And it was because Caesar Augustus made a decree to have a census. His actual name, Gaius Octavius, was changed to Caesar Augustus, an honorary title given to him in 27 B.C. by the Roman Senate.
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria in 8 B.C. The Jews did not like to pay taxes to Rome and apparently Herod was able to stall it off as long as possible. Finally they were forced to comply. And that's why Joseph and the very pregnant Mary had to make a ninety-mile journey to register in this census and they couldn't have put it off any longer.
And all of that fit into the purposes of God that they were there in Bethlehem when that child was born, because that was God's plan. So Jesus was not actually born in zero A.D., but rather somewhere between 6 - 4 B.C. The Jews decided that everybody should go back to the place where the records were kept. When Israel came to Canaan, the land was divided and tribes were given sections.
That was all critical to the purposes of God so that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Had Caesar Augustus made his decree earlier, had Herod resisted shorter or longer, the child would have been born in Nazareth and not have fulfilled prophecy and that showed that God couldn't control circumstances. But that didn't happen because God controls everything. God literally writes history as His story.
Now look to the national setting. Luke 2:4-5 says, “And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.” God gave the Jews the Scripture, which was specific about where the Messiah was to be born.
In Micah 5:2 we read, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me, the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” It can't be David because he was born 300 years before. How do we know it's the Messiah? Because it says, "whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."
It becomes important because when Caesar Augustus put the census in motion, the end result of that was this young couple were going to be in Bethlehem, and because of the date established, they were going to be there in the ninth month of her pregnancy. The city of David where he was born is called Bethlehem. As we learned earlier both Joseph and Mary were descendants of David.
Through Mary, Jesus got royal blood; and through his earthly father, Joseph, He received the right to be the ruler. Luke 2:4, “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.” And God, providentially, arranged them exactly where they need to be to fulfill prophecy.
Verse 5 says, “He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.” Really a fearful thing for a sixteen-year-old and a fourteen-year-old or so to take such a trip under such circumstances. Remember, Mary went to visit Elizabeth to connect with somebody who would understand a conception miracle because she conceived John through the Holy Spirit also in her old age.
Joseph knew she was pregnant with the Son of God. He knew this was Jesus to save His people from their sins because the angel told him that. He knew what Gabriel had told Mary. It says Mary was engaged to him. But in Matthew 1:24 it says they had married. Joseph arose from his sleep after the angel came and told him that she was a virgin, and that she had been given a child by God.
When he arose from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took her as his wife and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. He took her as a wife. What that indicates is that he actually married her at that point. That would have been the right thing to do. He covered her in kindness by going ahead with the ceremony. So they were actually married.
Now we come to the personal setting. Verse 6, “And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.” It doesn't tell us where they were. Verse 7, “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” Wherever they were when the baby was born was is where they had been the whole time.
They were homeless. Absolutely nothing is said about the details. No family, just a fourteen-year old and a sixteen-year old. Hours of labor, just a teen-aged husband to help. And finally she at the culmination of the labor, at the glorious moment pushes one more time and pushes out the Son of God. God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, Immanuel, the God of eternity stepped into time and space.
The Lord of omnipresence was confined to a body about eight pounds in weight and under two feet in length. That little life came out into the arms of that young father. And neither of them could fathom what was going on. And they had been told by an angel. Luke tells us that she gave birth to her firstborn son. The Roman Catholic Church says she had only one child and she was a perpetual virgin till her death.
That is not true. She had many sons and daughters. Matthew 1:24 - 25 says that he kept her a virgin until Jesus was born. After that Joseph and Mary had normal relationships as any other husband and wife would and they had boys and they had girls. In Matthew 12 and 13 we are introduced to Jesus' half-brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. In verse 56, His sisters are mentioned as well.
The crowd was saying, you know, Jesus is nobody special. This is just a carpenter's son. His mother is Mary, His brothers are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, and His sisters are all with us. They just an ordinary family full of kids. Jesus was the firstborn from God which means that she was a virgin but Jesus is the firstborn which means that He has the primary right to the family inheritance.
Joseph and Mary didn't have an estate to leave Him. But what they did have was the right to the throne of Israel. There hadn't been a king in a long time in Israel. And somebody was always ruling in Israel but it wasn't in the royal line of David. But the royal line was in the life of Joseph and Mary. And what they passed on to Jesus was the right to rule on the throne of David.
"She wrapped Him in cloths." Why is that there? Because that was a birth like every other birth. And a Jewish mother did this typically. The custom was to take long strips of cloth and wrap the arms and legs and then wrap the little body tightly. This was for warmth and security. They also believed that it helped to keep their bones straight when they grew in early life.
And then it says, "And laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." Manger is a feeding trough. It never says that Jesus was born in a stable. Well the means of transportation in ancient times were donkeys and so they carried goods on their animals. And so there would be adjacent to every place to stay, a place for the animals and a feed trough as well.
For days Joseph and Mary were huddled in kind of a shelter. So there probably wasn't an inn keeper who shut them out. It was just the nature of the situation. When Jesus came into the world, He came in the worst conditions, smelly and filthy. He humbled Himself all the way down, to become a substitute for sinners and bear our guilt in His own body.
Jesus came down to the poor, lowly and the wicked. He came down to the common people to bring His glorious salvation. It was fitting, in a sense then, that He was born in a smelly stable. God the Father sent the Savior all the way down into the lives of the lowly and the whole picture of that scene is a metaphor for the stench of sin which Jesus bore in His own sinless body.
God controls everything. And He fulfills the prophecies of Scripture and He comes all the way to the lowly sinner. Well, the birth of Jesus was in some ways a sad moment because of the obscurity of it all. But that didn't last. At that same time some angels began to tell what was going on to some shepherds, praising God saying: ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’
God does not do things the way the world does. The creator of the world is not born in a palace for the world to see. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. But God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. Only Christ makes us right with God; He made us pure, holy and free from sin. So that is reason to celebrate, Amen? Let us pray.