Pastor Marshall shared the Christmas story yesterday from Luke 2, giving details that truly speak great significance into that beloved account. I share it in my own words here, hoping to inspire Christmas in you and yours.
“1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 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, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 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.”
First point: Caesar thought he was in control of these events. He did not realize that truly it was God pulling the strings in order to bring about the fulfillment of events which long ago prophesied that the Christ would come out of Bethlehem, of the house of David. So God inspired events leading to the taking of the census.
And what were those events? Corrupt government and overspending that led to the need of increased taxation, leading to the new census so they could both collect taxes and know what the taxes would produce. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Could it be true for us now as for these back then that God is pulling strings for a purpose all His own?
Thus God led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus would be born there.
Then note the meaning of these events:
Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life. The manger is believed to have been a feeding troth. The Bread of Life was laid in a manger inside a hill in the House of Bread. Jesus came forth from the House of Bread, heir to the house of David, king of Israel, destined to take the throne of David and rule for all eternity. Jesus, the Christ Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, calls to us, beckoning us to come and feast ourselves in Him, who feeds us with lasting life from the House of Bread and the Father’s table.
And the cave in a hillside? Belief in Jesus is an issue that must reach the very heart of our being. This is a story that must tuck itself within us, reaching the core of our being, if it is to feed our lives for all eternity.
“8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 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; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
A shepherd was considered a low life individual in their culture: They stunk of sheep and were not even allowed in the temple because their job required them to do things that made them “unclean” and, thus, unable to enter the temple without first going through ritual cleansing. These shepherds not only had responsibility for the care of the common cattle, but they were responsible for the care of the lambs used in the temple sacrifices. They were keepers of the sacrificial lambs and, I am sure, longed for the Messiah to come and remove their need of that job.
In this time of history the people of God had not heard from God in 400 years. But I can imagine that, despite the growing evil that is mimicked in our own day, the people who most often thought of the eternal would be the ones caring for the sacrificial lambs being readied to take away their sin. How true of God to go to the lowliest and give them the honor of being first to hear the good news and see the Lamb of God enter the scene. I wonder if they transferred their role as keepers and caregivers to the Lamb of God, helping Joseph and Mary to look out for Jesus as He grew. I know that if I were in their shoes, I can see myself wanting to be by Mary’s side as much as possible, helping with the care of the one the angels announced as the Lord’s Messiah, come in human flesh. As Mary did then, today we ponder these things and rejoice with the angels.
“13 And suddenly there appeared 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 men with whom He is pleased.’”
Pastor pointed out that the day before this day these angels were stationed around the throne of Heaven, worshiping the God of all Creation. And now they continue their worship around the same God who has miraculously come in human form to show us the way of truth and pay the price that paved the way of our salvation. They rejoice as they see the plan and purpose of God birthed into the earth.
“15 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.’ 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”
Umm, yum, yum. Taste and see that the Lord is good. God sends the message of Good Tidings to our hearts, then feeds us in ways that give us firsthand experience as we go in search of Him. He promises that those who seek Him with whole heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:11-14, especially see the Amplified version). May we hear the good tidings, then go to see it for ourselves, finding Him faithful to make Himself known.
“17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”
Like the shepherds, we have to respond to the message of the Christ, go to the House of Bread and eat of the Bread of Life receiving that life for ourselves so that we may then go and tell others of His work on our behalf. We are called to recognize the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And when we receive and believe Him we are sent out with responsibility for the care of His pastures.
Hear the Christmas story, beloved, and respond today. The Lamb of God and the Bread of Life call us to a feast where Living Water is the drink of choice, springing up in the recipient as an artesian well bringing life to those we touch in His Name. Rejoice, beloved, then go and tell the good news!