Luke 2:1-20

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 their own town to register.

In those days it would appear that Augustus was the sovereign ruler of the entire known inhabited world. Imagine the power that one like that had – we are told that many under his rule would have viewed him as a divine king. Understandable, He established a Roman Empire that reigned throughout the world.

But here, for Joseph, Mary, and Israel as a whole, the alien intrusion and decree of a census was a reminder that they were a conquered people. Since Augustus had pronounced a census, all people travelled from here and there to fulfill his burdensome desire.

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 [King] David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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 guest room available for them.

Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem before the delivery of Mary’s baby. While in Bethlehem they had trouble, in fact, they could not find lodging. Perhaps the village was over crowded with travelers for the census. But when the time finally came for Mary to give birth they had to find shelter. So they were directed to an animal stall where they could use a feeding trough to place their child in. Odd, unlikely – Never before has a King had such a lowly beginning, born in a animal stable, placed in a feeding trough, in an obscure village.

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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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.

In the narrative we move from an event, to a response. The narrative begins with the world ruler announcing a degree from his high and lofty throne. It is interesting how God works – on one level it was a man’s schemes (Augustus) who brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem – but it was God working though Augustus, Joseph, and Mary who orchestrated the whole event of Christ’s birth in order to fulfill what had been spoken of in the Prophets.

As we reach the point in the story where we see people responding to the event of Christ’s birth, who does God choose to reveal this great news to? God announces this glorious message to poor shepherds – to peasants, the outcasts of society. Reflecting on the narrative of the Shepherds provides a good opportunity for us to stop and consider what God has done in Christ.

1. In Christ we have been moved from ‘darkness’ into ‘light.’

Just as the Shepherds had moved from the dark coldness of night into the brilliant light of God’s glory (2:8-9), so to do we get to experience the warm and loving presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts by the grace of Jesus Christ our King when we repent of our sin and place our faith in Him.

Think about it, God’s glory was manifest around them. An angel spoke directly to them. They were surrounded by thousands of angels proclaiming that “peace on earth has come to those in whom God is pleased.” This is the meeting place of heaven with earth, of divine with man, here with the outcasts of society.

See, the good news comes to peasants, to outsiders, to the lowly. These are to ones who are lifted up to see the glory of God in his Son Jesus – our Savior, Messiah, and Lord. The wealth of this angelic pronouncement stands in stark contrast to the poverty of the shepherds.

2. In Christ we can move from ‘great fear’ to ‘great joy.’

In the narrative, the Shepherds trade their “great fear” in for “great joy” (2:9-10). The great joy is a response the good news that another ruler has been born, one who is loving and just, one whose dominion and power will be everlasting. And this Kingdom did not come in power through military force, through fearful conquering. Christ’s Kingdom came in power through loving sacrifice.

According to the angelic messengers, this is good news “for all the people”, peace has come on earth in Jesus the Messiah (2:10, 14). Yet, we all understand that this world is broken and confused; we understand that all of us are wrecked sinners. We are all spiritual peasants with nothing worthy to offer a Holy God. So how can this be good news for all people?

As we continue to read the Scriptures we find this King who was born in a stable growing up and offering His own life as a ransom for peasants like you and I. When we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus the King we will be saved. When this happens we have no reason to fear any longer, there is no more condemnation! See, He is a good King who gives us what we do not deserve out of His own good pleasure. His salvation moves us from the darkness of sin into the glorious light of his righteousness! His salvation moves us from being outcast peasants in fear to experiencing the riches of joy in fellowship with God!

This season is not only a reminder of Christ’s birth, but a call to look forward when He will come again. One day our King will return and all things will be made new. We will experience His glory and presence free from the poverty of our sinful natures, free from the brokenness of this world. I don’t know about you but I long for that day. And Christ’s birth announcement is a proclamation that our God reins, that His kingdom has been established. Those of us who have placed our trust in this King can proclaim with the Shepherds, with the Angels, that there is a rich wholeness in His salvation:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Merry Christmas!

One thought on “A Christmas Devotional from Luke 2:1-20

  1. This is very interesting. My first degree was in philosophy and theology, and I’m still quite interested in the latter.

    I especially like the idea of the move from event to response, but where does sacrifice come in? Does faith require us to empty ourselves, so that we can take part in Christ’s sacrifice with neither “great fear” nor “great joy”, but full attentiveness to God*?

    It was great to find your blog, though it does make me a little embarrassed at my flippant treatment of Luke in my own blog!

    Geist Bites

    *A complicated issue. Hopefully we can deal with that later…

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