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Unto You a Child is Born
sent word through his prophets saying that He would raise up a descendant of
David to the throne of
1 of Luke, an angel announces to Zechariah that the long wait is over! He and
his elderly, barren wife Elizabeth will have a baby, who will be the promised
forerunner of the Messiah. The angel’s words come true;
The same angel announces to Mary that she, a young virgin, will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that her child will be the long-awaited Messiah. Mary submits to God’s inconvenient grace; she too praises God for His faithfulness to His people.
This brings us to today’s text, Luke 2:1-21. We’ll consider this under three headings:
first action recorded in this section
is by the man who is, apparently, the most powerful in the world: Augustus, the
first emperor of
So every Jew returns to the land of his ancestors to register.
that chapter 1 records that Joseph and Mary were living at this time in
hears of Caesar’s decree; he must travel to
Joseph and Mary go to
Why did they go? Why did Mary have to undergo a journey of several days while pregnant? This seems like another of the many inconveniences that Mary had to face.
Joseph went to
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among
the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in
Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he
shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of
pass over this incident. Marvel at the sovereignty of God. God uses Caesar
Augustus to get Mary to
As Proverbs 21:1 says:
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
turned the heart of Caesar Augustus, in order that Mary might end up in
The second action we’ll consider is found in verses 6 and 7:
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
Isaiah had prophesied more than 600 years earlier,
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulders. Isaiah 9:6
Now the child is here. The long-awaited Messiah. The Conquering King.
Yet this magnificent birth takes place in a far from magnificent setting. Jesus is born within the prophesied city, yes, but not in a palace, not even in a house. Traditionally, Mary gives birth surrounded by animals – "the friendly beasts,” according to one song. But while animals may have been present, we don’t know that. All we know is what Luke tells us here: There was no room for them in the normal place travelers would stay, so the couple stayed elsewhere. Either there was an animal’s feeding trough - a manger - where they stayed, or, needing a resting place for the child, Joseph found an unused manger and carried it to where they stayed.
So a young girl, a virgin, gives birth to a tiny, crying baby and puts him in a feeding trough. Meanwhile, the emperor gave commands, armies marched, politicians connived. They all thought that they were very important men of action. They all thought the world revolved around them, that the future depended on their actions. But the most important event that day – indeed, the most important event to that point in all of history – took place when that young girl gave birth. The Messiah is born!
God has planned this event since before the beginning of time. And so now He proclaims it, telling others the significance of what just happened. He sends a large number of angelic messengers to announce the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.
· He could have sent them to Caesar Augustus, but He doesn’t;
· He could have sent them to King Herod, but He chose not to;
· He could have sent them to the High Priest or chief priests, but He ignored them.
Instead, God chooses to send His messengers to a group of poor shepherds herding their flocks in the middle of the night.
Do you remember how the prophecy we quoted from Isaiah 9 begins?
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2
For unto you is born this day in the city of
Question: Why did he say, "unto you”? He could have just said, "For a Savior, Christ, the Lord is born this day.” But he says, ‘Unto you!”
He uses those words because they describe why the news is so joyous! The child is born unto you! Unto all the people! The child is born:
But to you! To all the people, young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick, strong and weak. The prophecy had said, "unto us a child is born.” So the angel says, "This child is born unto you! Truly, a good and great joy.
This is the day, the long-awaited day, the day when there would be no more delay. The child is born. The Messiah is come.
But who is this child? How does the angel describe Him? With three words: Savior. Christ (or Messiah). Lord.
that normal Jewish teaching at this time did not consider the coming Messiah to
be divine. He was clearly to be a descendant of David. He would be great and
mighty, restoring the kingdom to
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
These men are overwhelmed with fear and surprise at the angel’s appearance, astounded and confused by the angel’s words. They know they are at the center of a great event, but their heads are swimming at all that they have heard. Then the angel says something absolutely preposterous:
"This will be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
That might have been the greatest surprise of the night! That these angels would appear to poor shepherds to announce the Messiah’s birth is quite surprising. But the long-awaited Messiah – wrapped up like a common poor infant, placed in a feeding-trough?
Mary had said of God that He has "exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52) and He surely does that here by choosing a humble place for Jesus’ birth, and by speaking to these shepherds.
But as if to underline the statement that this is the greatest news the world has ever heard, to ensure that the shepherds understand that the baby’s location does not diminish His glory, numerous angels now suddenly appear, praising God:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
Indeed, God is bringing the highest glory, the deepest praise to Himself through the humble birth of His Son. And He promises peace among those with whom He is well pleased. This is not a general command "goodwill toward men” but God’s peace, peace with God, for those who are His people, for those who are His treasured possession, for those who are the True Israel.
Micah had said as much in the prophecy we read earlier: The Messiah
. . . shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, . . . 5 And he shall be their peace. Micah 5:4-5
This is the proclamation: The time is now. The child is born unto you! God’s peace is here! God’s glory shines forth! The Messiah, the Savior, the Lord is with you!
first response to this good news is by the shepherds. They say, "We’ve got to
It must take a while – where are they to find a baby lying in a feeding trough? But in the end they succeed. In some nondescript place, they find Mary, and Joseph, and the infant Messiah. The shepherds excitedly tell Mary and Joseph all that happened, all the angel said.
Verse 20 closes the account of the shepherds:
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
How do the shepherds respond?
Instead, the shepherds respond with joy. With faith. They give glory to God. They spread the news to others – not to make a buck, but to glorify God for His mighty, faithful work.
Are you giving him your best?
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