December 22, 2013

The Birth of Jesus Christ



Luke 2 is one of the most read chapters of the Christmas story. It tells of the actual birth of Jesus
Christ and the appearance of the angel to the shepherds telling them to go and find the Lord who was born in Bethlehem.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from C├Žsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). From the very start, it appears that Luke was trying to set these two men against each other, Caesar Augustus and Jesus Christ, because both of them shared similar titles yet had very opposing views of power. For example, Caesar Augustus was called a savior and a peace giver because he brought to an end a century of Roman wars, bring peace to a war filled land. He also was called the son of god because he was the adopted son of Julius Caesar who had been deified. Jesus Christ is also a savior, except that he is the Savior of our sins. He also is the Prince of Peace, but he will bring a permanent peace that will last forever. Lastly, Jesus is truly the Son of God.

Next, in the account we learn of when Mary and Joseph travel the long road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; this road was about 95 miles and would take about four to five days to travel. The scriptures read, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)

When they arrived, they came to find that there was no room in the "inn," however the word inn could be better translated as a "caravansary," or even as simply as just a "room." If it was really more like a caravansary, it is possible that the innkeeper, that we often criticize for turning away Mary and Joseph, may have actually been trying to do Mary a favor by giving her a location that was much more private.

Caravansary or "inn" with animals in the center of the courtyard
A caravansary would have had a large open courtyard in the center with rooms around it. Everybody would be able to stay in those specific rooms and there most likely either would have been just a wood door or maybe even just a curtain for privacy. All the animals would be in the very center and it would be a very noisy and dirty environment.

The stable also is another thing that is often misunderstood. We call it a stable because in England they had wooden stables, and so they say that Jesus must have been born in a stable because he was born with animals. However, at the time of Christ the most likely place that Jesus would have been born is actually in a cave because there were many caves in the area of Bethlehem which made a perfect place to keep your animals (instead of having to build your own "stable").

Thus, it seems that right from the beginning that Luke was trying to foreshadow the events of Christ's death through the events of his birth. At his birth he was laid in a cave wrapped in swaddling clothes because there was no room in the inn, and at his death he was laid in a borrowed tomb wrapped in white cloth.

The fact that Jesus Christ is the firstborn of Mary is also extremely significant (see Luke 2:7). During the time of the Bible the firstborn child was given a double inheritance. This double inheritance was specifically given to eldest son so that he could be the caregiver of the family when the father died. So you think about it, the oldest son, the firstborn, would be in charge of helping the mother if the father had died, supporting the sisters who may have not married, or maybe providing extra help for a wayward sibling. In short, the eldest brother would be in charge of caring for the needs of the family. Likewise, Jesus Christ does the same thing for each of us. As the firstborn, he truly is the one that watches out for the widows, for the unmarried, for those who are struggling, for all of us!


We next learn in the account of Luke 2 about the visitation of the angel to the shepherds, proclaiming to them the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ (see Luke 2:8-14). We often glorify and romanticize these shepherds, calling them humble and submissive—not that they weren't—but actually during the time of Christ most of the people would have actually looked down upon shepherds. Shepherds were seen as unclean, nomadic (having no home), uneducated, and poor. More significantly, they also were seen as being dishonest because they would allow their animals to graze on land that did not belong to them.

I think it teaches us a valuable lesson about who the Lord chooses to do his work, and more importantly what the Lord sees in each of us. Often when we look at somebody we see the outward appearances of them being poor, or unclean, or uneducated (or whatever it may be). But what the Lord sees is their potential and their ability to learn and grow from giving them experiences and opportunities to serve. He does not see them with physical eyes, but spiritual eyes!

We read in the scriptures that it says of the shepherds, “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:16-17). In other words, they immediately acted when they were told to do something by the angel; they did not wait. In addition, once they had found the Christ Child, they told everyone around them about what they had seen.

Each of us must be witnesses of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How will we act? Will we act like these shepherds that when we are commanded to tell the people about the Savior, will we act in haste? Will we tell everybody we know? Or like so many of the people during this time that heard the witness of the shepherds, maybe marvel at the words and wonder what was said, but do nothing about it. Will we be doers of good like the shepherds? That is the question, for truly we all must be witnesses of Jesus Christ.

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