2010 12-19 “JESUS CHRIST IS BORN!” LUKE 2:1-7

I. Introduction
Welcome to our final Sunday morning worship service before Christmas. In a few minutes we will turn to The Gospel of Luke and spend some time in seven of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible. In them we will see that God is always in control of both men and events. He will accomplish His purposes!

But before we look into those seven verses I want to let the Bible set the stage for this story that has become so familiar to us. We’ll have to go back to the beginning.
*John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.

Seven hundred years before Luke wrote his gospel, the Prophet Isaiah spoke these words.
Isaiah 9:6
6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the govern-ment will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah’s prophecy of a child being born and a son being given was fulfilled when God’s Son took on a human body and walked among men.
*John 1:14
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

After the Child Isaiah prophesied was born, lived, died, and accomplished everything that God had sent Him to do, the Apostle Paul reflected on His first coming.
Galatians 4:4
4 But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…

The fullness of time that Paul refers to came when Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s baby boy, the one they named John, was about six months old. Then one night in Bethlehem, the city of David, God’s Son came into this world in a most humble manner.

Luke 2:1-20 provides us with the most detailed account of Jesus’ birth to be found in all of Holy Scripture. As we delve into theses verses over the next few weeks I would ask you to make every effort to focus on Christ and what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the distractions of the world at this time of the year.

There are pageants and social gatherings and cards and decorations and presents and food and a myriad of other things all vying for your time and attention. Stress and frustration and even some sadness from the memories of loved ones who are no longer with us often accompany the season. And to all of that you can add the ever-growing disdain of the secular world for Jesus Christ and His followers.

It is clear that these things can weigh us down. They can discourage the very best of God’s people. But take heart. “In the fullness of time” God acted on human history and kept His promises.

II. Text
*Luke 2:1-7 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
1 Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.
4 And 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 And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

After such a detailed telling of the stories of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, and the birth of John in the first chapter, Luke’s description of Jesus’ birth is brief and to the point. But in these seven verses we see a sovereign and omnipotent God who is in complete control. He will use anyone and anything to accomplish His eternal purposes.

The Christian faith is based on fact, not fable or fiction. We know when Jesus was born. We have seen what a careful and precise historian Dr. Luke was. Christ’s birth and death can both be established at a of moment time in world history. Christianity is tied to real people and real political situations because it is really real. John MacArthur says,
“(Mary’s baby) wasn’t…like any other child. This child was the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man fused together in indivisible oneness.
This birth was so monumental that it became the high point of history, the peak, the apex. All history before this birth is B.C., Before Christ. All history since is A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for ‘the year of the Lord.’”

So “in the fullness of time,” that is to say, at the exact moment in history when our sovereign God chose to bring the Lord Jesus Christ into this world, He moved in the hearts of men and brought about the events that would assure the Baby’s arrival precisely when and precisely where He intended.
*Luke 2:1-3
1 Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.

Luke pinpoints the time. According to Luke 1:5, “those days,” were when Herod was king of Judea. It was then that the emperor of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, did God’s bidding and called for a census. God used pagan rulers to get Jesus to Bethlehem.

Who was this Caesar? Caesar Augustus was actually his title, not his name. It meant “Honored Emperor.” His real name was Gaius Octavius. He was Julius Caesar’s grand-nephew and was, by most accounts, the most important and powerful ruler in Roman history. It is said that when his reign began, Rome had been built with bricks, but when his reign ended, Rome was built with marble.

Then (as now) marble was substantially more expensive than bricks. In order for Rome to know how much money they could collect through taxes, they needed people to regis-ter. They needed to take a census.

A government learns a lot about its people through the taking a census, doesn’t it? For example, as a result of the 2000 census, our government now knows that Americans drive 22,000 miles and consume nearly 31 pounds of cheese each year. That last one is good for Wisconsin but bad for our cholesterol.

In order to be even more specific about when Jesus’ birth took place, in v. 2 Luke tells us this census was taken “when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” With those facts, and making adjustments for the differences in today’s calendar and the ones used in those days, we can conclude that Jesus was born between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C.

I know how discouraged most of us are with the way our government conducts itself and many of the decisions it makes. But it’s important to remember that no one, not even the most powerful man on earth, can do anything that God doesn’t either cause him to do, or allow him to do. God’s character and power do not change. Therefore, this is as true today as it was when Jesus was born. Fear not! God is in control.
If you aren’t convinced of that, listen to the wisdom of King Solomon.
Proverbs 21:1
1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

In order to fulfill prophecy Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem. The Roman decree for a census saw to it that He would be. Caesar didn’t know it but he was doing God’s will.
That OT prophecy was made by Micah.
Micah 5:2
2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah (the city’s original name), too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

The only king who came from Bethlehem was David. But of course, Micah’s prophecy cannot apply to David since it was made more than two hundred years after David’s death. However, there’s something else in Micah’s prophecy that limits it to only one King. Micah said that the King who goes forth from Bethlehem will come from eternity past. “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
*Luke 2:4-5
4 And 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.

Since Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem, in order to register for the census, he was required to make a four or five day journey of approximately 80 miles south from Nazareth up to Bethlehem, the “City of David.” We don’t generally think of going “up” when we go south. We go “up north” here in Wisconsin. We go “down south” when go to Florida. But Joseph and Mary went “up south.” But in this case direction was not the issue at all. Elevation was the issue. Bethlehem is about 750 feet higher in elevation than is Nazareth. So they went “up.”

There are two things about Bethlehem that are symbolically significant. For one thing, the name “Bethlehem” literally means, “The House of Bread.” Could there be a better place from where the Bread of heaven would come? That is what Jesus repeatedly called Himself in John’s gospel.
John 6:41, 48, 51
41 “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”
48 “I am the bread of life.”
51 “…if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Bethlehem is symbolically significant for a second reason. Sheep raised to be sacrificed in the temple services were routinely grazed on the hills surrounding the city. The Jews always had to have a “perfect” lamb ready for the sacrifice. Since Bethlehem was only five miles from Jerusalem, the hills there were perfect for the raising of sacrificial sheep.

The shepherds who cared for those sheep would be the first ones to have the privilege of meeting the Lamb of God, the One who would put an end to the need to sacrifice sheep at all. But that’s for next Sunday.

Do you see how precisely God orchestrated everything on that first Christmas? The place was significant. What was done there was significant. And Joseph and Mary would be there in time for the prophecies to be fulfilled.

There is one thing in v. 5 that may need some clarification. Luke says that Mary was engaged to Joseph. Matthew says that they were married. Immediately the unbelievers and skeptics pounce. “Contradiction! Error!” Actually it is neither.
Matthew 1:24-25 (When the angel told Joseph about Mary’s pregnancy.)
24 And Joseph…did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took (Mary) as his wife,
25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

In the Jewish culture the distinction between being engaged and being married was slight.
The only real difference between the two was that once the couple was married the relationship would be consummated. But in every other sense, the couple was already married. Engagement was a legally binding contract. In fact, a broken engagement was the equivalent of today’s divorce.

So when Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews, he used the term “married,” because to the Jewish mind, they were. When Luke wrote his gospel to the Greeks, he used the term “engaged,” because to the Gentile mind, they were. No contradiction, no error.
*Luke 2:6-7
6 And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The coming of the Son of God to this earth – to be born of a woman, to introduce us to His Father, to die, to be resurrected, and to return to heaven – is the most significant event in human history. The next event of such magnitude will be His Second Coming. But notice how quietly He arrives on that first Christmas. At the moment of His birth there is no earthquake, no fanfare, and no voice from heaven. This is a humble, quiet, and simple birth. Jesus Christ came into this world in a most ordinary way.

Isn’t it interesting that Luke describes the birth so matter-of-factly? He doesn’t use any superlatives. He doesn’t exaggerate or embellish. Mary just gave birth as women do.

In v. 7 Luke says she gave birth to her firstborn son. Since the fifth century The Roman Catholic Church has taught that Mary never had any other children. This is known as her “perpetual virginity.” But Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.” We know from Scripture that Mary had other children. All four gospel writers mention them and Matthew even names them. (James, Joseph, Simon, Jude – Matthew 13:55) So Dr. Luke, ever the precise and careful historian, points out that Jesus is Mary’s “firstborn.”

Further evidence of the normalcy and simplicity of this birth are the Baby’s wrappings.
It was the common practice of the day that babies would be tightly wrapped in strips of cloth to keep them warm and protected. This sign would also show the shepherds that they had found the right baby.
*Luke 2:12 (The angel speaking to the shepherds.)
12 “And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.”

There are no royal robes, no golden crowns, no throne, and no scepter. There is nothing other than a baby in strips of torn cloth. So God’s greatest gift appears on earth in the equivalent of plain brown paper. I never cease to be amazed at how God does things so differently than you and I would do them.

I would have thought that God would send His Son to earth with “shock and awe.” I would have thought God would send Him as a Lion to conquer, not a Lamb to be sacri-ficed. I would have thought God would send Him as the King of Creation in great power and stunning glory. I would have thought that His royal robes would have His name written on them, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” But that’s for later. That’s for the Second Coming, isn’t it? (Revelation 19:16)

But on this first Christmas the King of Glory is found in torn strips of tattered cloth and placed in a feeding trough that was most likely hewn out of a rock wall. It’s doubtful that it was made of wood as so many of our manger scenes depict it.

Furthermore, the Bible nowhere says that Jesus was born in a stable. That’s just tradition. It’s more likely that His birth took place in a cave, but there is really no solid proof of that
either. In any case, you can be sure that He wasn’t placed in a sterile or sanitized crib.
On the contrary, it would have been dirty, smelly, and crude.

Again and again the point is clearly made. Jesus’ first coming to this earth was simple, humble, and without fanfare. Why? It is because He came the first time to live a simple life, to humble Himself, and to die for sinners like you and me. That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Philippi.
*Philippians 2:6-8
6 …although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (a slave), and being made in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in appearance as man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

That pretty much describes His first coming, doesn’t it? That’s really what the first Christmas was about. There was no room at the inn. But when He comes again, the whole world will not be room enough to contain His glory.
*Philippians 2:9-11
9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

But the night Jesus was born into this world “there was no room…at the inn.” The inns of the day were more like campgrounds for both people and animals. The buildings were typically two-story structure where overnight guests would sleep on the upper level while their animals rested on the ground level.

The innkeeper (assuming there was one) gets a lot of bad press for someone who’s not even mentioned in the Bible. He has become the scapegoat of the Christmas story and usually depicted as some sort of villain. In any case, it stands to reason that there was no vacancy. Since Bethlehem wasn’t a tourist attraction, and since it was so close to Jerusa-lem, there would not have been a lot of places to stay. With the census going on, there would have been a lot of people in town. There really wasn’t any room for them.
Imagine that. No room for Jesus.

So what has changed in the world today? Do you have room for Him? The problem is that people are too indifferent. Many people don’t hold any outright or conscious animosity toward Jesus. They just don’t have any room for Him. They might go to church and even sing Christmas carols. Many people just don’t care about Him. Many are simply bored by what they think of as the routine of religion.

Then some people are too ignorant. They aren’t stupid. They just don’t know. They miss the message of Christmas simply because they don’t know it. Maybe they’ve never really been told. Or maybe they know a few things but have never investigated it for themselves. If there was an innkeeper, he should have known that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Some people are too involved. In the midst of their frantic activity, they’re overwhelmed by the urgent and miss the important.

Finally, some people are too indulgent. They’re so busy chasing after the things of this world they forget that it is temporary. To one degree or another, these things affect all of us. We’re indifferent, or ignorant, or too involved, or too indulgent. I say this to myself as well as to all of you. We need to be conscious of these things and strive to be careful about them.

III. Conclusion
Listen, Jesus is still looking for space today. He wants to take up residence in your heart. Do you have room for Him? In the hymn, “Joy to the World,” it says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Have you done that?

Or is your intellect too steeped in the philosophies of this world? Are you weighed down with selfish pursuits? Are you so involved with seeking after pleasure that you don’t have room for the baby Jesus? Do you remember what He said to the church at Laodicea? They were so full of the world that they had no room for Him. Jesus was literally on the outside looking in. I tell you plainly, regardless of what such a place may call itself, it is not a church!
Revelation 3:20
20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him…”

Don’t turn Jesus away. The day will come when He will no longer knock at the door of your heart. Then it will be too late. I implore you to invite Him in while you still can.
*John 1:10-12
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and those who were His did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become child-ren of God, even to those who believe in His name…

If you have not opened the door of your heart and received Jesus, it is my prayer that you do so today. God has orchestrated everything. He has put it all in place. Jesus was born, He lived, He died, He was resurrected, He ascended to heaven, and is even now preparing to return to receive His own to Himself. God has put every detail in place. All you need to do is receive Him. Open your heart and invite Him in. He’s waiting…

~ Pray ~