Monday, December 19, 2011

The Story of Christmas Begins Humbly (Luke 2:1-20)

       1.    INTRODUCTION:
Some years ago there was a Christmas program titled “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” The story line concerned a confused little girl who questioned whether there was a real Santa. She wrote a letter about her quandary to the New York Sun newspaper.

The editor read the letter and mulled it over in his mind. He wrote an editorial appearing in the paper as a response to Virginia’s quest for truth. He wrote about the spirit of goodwill and make-believe wrapped up in a mythical character that appears in a red suit with white beard and hair.

Some people are as confused about Jesus as Virginia was about Santa. As Christians, we need to respond to the Virginias who ask, Is there a real Jesus?” We can confirm,Yes, Virginia, there is a real Jesus.” His story begins humbly.

Paying taxes is never a pleasure. Imagine having to travel 80 miles to register to do it! That’s exactly what Joseph and Mary were obliged to do. Rome required their subjects to go to their own tribal city to sign up for the assessing of taxes.
Imagine the scene. Two solitary figures, one walking, perhaps the other riding on a small donkey over some of the roughest ground in the country, going toward Bethlehem. Alternating riding and walking over the road would have been difficult. Since Mary was nine months pregnant, it was especially hard.

Rounding the trail, they could see candle-light from houses in Bethlehem where families and friends were sharing a meal, playing games, or talking together. Exhausted and needing a place to rest, they headed toward the town’s khan or inn. Bethlehem’s khan offered the traveler only the shelter of its walls and roof.

The Pulpit Commentary describes a stable of limestone attached to the inn of Bethlehem. Since Bethlehem was a suburb only six miles from Jerusalem, it had a large inn that was often crowded with the poorer class of pilgrims who went to the Temple at the seasons of the great feasts.

When Joseph and Mary found no room in the inn, they were forced to stay in the stable where other unfortunate travelers probably bedded down with the animals. There, in that humble place, the Savior of the world would have His earthly beginning – where Mary and Joseph would first hear His cries of helplessness and human dependencies. Could Mary and Joseph foresee His strength of life that would someday transform our world?

One can only speculate what the innkeeper thought as the couple asked for room. His “rejection” may have been cruel, or it may have been with genuine regret. His “no vacancy” sign has become the symbol of Christ’s rejection throughout the ages.

The world does not want nor think it needs Him. They give lip service to Christ, but only if He is politically advantageous. They do not realize the outcome if Jesus were in charge of men who are in charge of governments.

There is a belief that as long as we have our reasoning faculty, our applied knowledge, our intuitive powers, we don’t need a divine teacher to instruct us. We become self-sufficient and happy with our intellectual maturity. Our little “inn” of knowledge will someday be exposed by His light of truth and knowledge as our prison of intellectual foolishness.

We are in want of expensive cars, a bigger house, larger expense accounts, and more toys of life. One bumper sticker boldly states, “The person who dies with the most toys wins.” We have little concept of stewardship in giving our money, our homes, our cars, our clothes, and ourselves to God to use as He wills. We are too afraid He may ask us to give up something we don’t want to surrender. If we are to be Christian, God not only asks for our tithe but asks for our all.  

Most people want a spiritual guide to help them along the way. At this writing, our economy is waning. A television news commentator recently showed his audience a ceramic figurine designed as an icon of the Catholic Church, representing the patron saint of real estate. It was designed so that people could put these figurines of the lawn and receive “help” in selling their property. These objects were selling so fast that the producers could not keep up with the demand. Folks want a “spiritual guide” to help them sell their houses!

Some people have room for a “spiritual guide” but no room for a Savior. There is little sense of sin today. Much is said about sin, however, very few sense the need to be forgiven. People reason, “Everybody does it” “We can’t help it!” “God loves us and won’t send us to hell!” So why do we need a Savior? Many persons do not have an awareness of a deep, wide chasm between us and God that can only be bridged by the Savior, Jesus. People seem to have no room for the Divine Propitiation, the Reconciler, the Christ who redeems. They don’t always oppose His right to their lives, they just don’t have the time to open the door to Him. Things crowd Him out.

Dr. Marshall Lang wrote, “Alas, of what enlightening truth, of what blessed restfulness of heart, of what nobility of life, of what eternity of glory, do men bereave themselves by crowding out the Lord who loves them, by excluding the Redeemer from the home of their hearts!”

Aren’t babies cute? Have you ever seen an ugly baby? They have cute little dainty feet, adorable tiny hands, and little button noses. They are cute with a full head of hair as bald as an eagle. It always amazes me how these cute little bouncing babies grow into 6-foot persons with ham-like hands, a beard, and great potential.

Little, cute Baby Jesus was to grow up to become a rugged carpenter. If Isaiah the prophet was telling us about His physical appearance, He was, in Isaiah’s estimation, not attractive. But what potential! He was to become the Transformer of lives. He is the Son of God, Messiah, Redeemer, Savior! He is the King. His story becomes our story.

We are introduced to the common working man of the East, Shepherds. Perhaps we feel more at home with them than with the Wise men of rank and lofty social status. Bible scholars Edersheim and Barclay both espouse the theory that these Shepherds watched over the sacrificial sheep destined for the Temple and that these were special herders.

May be that’s why God chose these men to hear the first announcement of the Savior’s birth. Their sacrificial lambs would symbolize the coming Lamb of God. Even if they were the Temple Shepherds, they were still looked down on by the mainstream of the culture.

It was impossible for them to keep all the meticulous laws, for their sheep required that they perform tasks the orthodox viewed as unclean. God announced His Son to them. In the blackness of night, a divine glory and splendor came to these Shepherds – the announcement of glad tidings of joy to all the world.

In His action, God provided for man’s release from sin. He provided light to dispel the shadows of darkness. He provided love that would strike a death-blow to fear. Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was God’s provision for the “insignificant” of humanity.

After hearing the angel’s announcement, these insignificant outcasts started on the road to find Jesus. We also should take the road, not to Christmas, but to Bethlehem. With the Shepherds, we may pay homage and honor to our Savior and King who lifts us from insignificance to significance. That’s why He came to earth.

It was a humble beginning for Jesus. He has brought humanity to the brink of eternal life. Will you accept His gift of love today? Follow me singing this most inspiring song,

    O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
      Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by,
      Yet in thy dark streets shinneth, the ever lasting Light,
      The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in these tonight.

      For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
      While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love,
      O morning stars, together Proclaim the holy birth,
      And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

       How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given,
      So, God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of His heavewn,
      No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin,
      Where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.

      O holy child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray,
      Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today!
      We hear the holy angels, the great glad tidings tell,
      Oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel!

(Composed by Bishop Phillips Brooks. Matt.2:10, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea”)



Popular Posts