The Birthday Celebration
Christmas greetings everyone,
I pray that this Christmas is shaping up to be a blessing to you and your families. Most of us have our family traditions for Christmas day. We read from a certain Bible, we read a certain verse, we listen to certain songs, maybe we sing a certain carol, and some of us might combine all these things, as well as others. My point is, we have a tradition of doing things a certain way every Christmas.
Churches are the same way, and Harmony (the church that I pastor) has some solid traditions that they have passed down through the years: the tree and decorations, Communion on Christmas Eve, and The Christmas Program/Party with pokes.
Another tradition, pre-Covid, not necessarily related to Christmas, was that whenever babies were born, the expectant family would all gather in the waiting room at the hospital. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sometimes whole families would be found in the waiting room. I find it interesting that when Jesus was born, a doctor was not involved. There was no hospital or waiting room. Cards and pictures over the years have made us picture that Jesus was born in a stable, but it now is believed now to be a cave that functioned as a stable. Just a rugged cave used to shelter the animals. Baby Jesus was not surrounded by grandparents and family, but by an average mixture of farm animals, like cows, goats, sheep, and chickens.
Our reading today is a Christmas morning tradition for my family Luke 2:1-20. We’ll begin with verses 1-5,
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his hometown to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.”
Now Mary also was of the line of David, women also were taxed, so she was with Joseph. This was not an easy trip back then. The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem was 90 miles. Now, in my Bible footnotes, it says this journey would have to take at least three days, however, with Mary being very pregnant, I just imagine that it would have taken a couple of days more to travel that distance on foot. Just imagine this journey, how difficult and tedious it had to have been. Luke 2:6-7,
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
As I pondered these two verses of scripture, as I was writing this a few weeks back, I just sensed that there was a great deal of activity, also emotion wrapped up in this part of Jesus’ birth story.
Dare I say that a great many of us, finding ourselves in this situation, would be freaking out. No room at the inn, naturally, because everyone is traveling. How would you even make a reservation? Then, putting the baby in a feeding trough, the manger. What would a doctor or nurse say about that?
But, all of this is ordained by God. This seems to be all so happenstance, chaos even, but it isn’t. This is all part of God’s plan.
All of this seeming confusion from lack of planning isn’t that at all. It IS the plan. It’s the plan because this is a sign from God. Luke 2:8-12,
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”’
See, it is a sign. The angel even said so. The prophet Isaiah mentioned a sign, six to seven hundred years earlier, in Isaiah 7:14,
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Have you ever heard of another virgin giving birth to a baby? Does anybody know a virgin that had a baby? Don't tell me about Star Wars, Star Wars is not real. Jesus' birth IS REAL.
How about another baby, not named Jesus, in a manger? Have you ever seen another baby in a manger?
No one has. We think of a virgin having a baby, we think of Mary. We think of a baby in a feeding trough, surrounded by animals, we think of Jesus.
These are signs from God, prophecy, and all parts of God’s plan. Even as Jesus is being born, he is fulfilling prophecy. I’m not making this stuff up. Read the Bible and believe. Luke 2:13-14, just as the angel finishes speaking,
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”’
Wow! If I could choose to be at any happening in the Bible, this would be one of my first choices. Heaven opens up, and here is the heavenly host, God’s celestial army, singing and praising God. They are all here to praise God and Jesus. See Jesus has just come from heaven and entered into our fallen world to redeem us. God’s plan is coming together and Satan isn’t going to know what hit him. Let’s go back to Isaiah 9:6-7, to understand more about this plan of God. Remember, this is being said six to seven hundred years before Christ’s birth.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
This scripture is interesting, because it is referring not to Jesus' life in his first advent, but to his life and reign after his second advent, a future prophecy leading to eternity. These two verses are describing Jesus’ reign after his Return. The Jews thought Jesus was here to help them overcome the Romans and regain the Israelite nation. But they’re wrong. The battle is with Satan, not Rome. The battle is for the eternity of mankind, not the area known as Palestine. Luke 2:15-20,
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
So, sure enough, the shepherds find Mary, and the baby Jesus wrapped in cloth, and lying in a manger. Because it was all a sign from God. Let me reread an overlooked verse alone. Luke 2:20,
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
“Just as they had been told.”
With everything that is happening so fast around us in this world, especially today, we lose track of the obvious. God’s word is full of signs from God, yes. But God’s word is even more, because the Bible itself is a sign, and if we read this book, we will realize, when our life’s journey here on earth ends, and we transition into eternity, it will be the same for us, just as the shepherds, just as we had been told.
Share the story, share the truth.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC