Luke 2:1, “1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”
- The Gospel of Luke is an investigative report on the life of Jesus.
Luke 2:2-3, “2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.”
- These are real, historical events that give credibility. Back in verse 1 we see Caesar Augustus, a real historical king in Rome. In verse 2 we see Quirinius is a real governor in history. Syria is a real location that exists in the world today. The census is a real government event that is done to determine the amount of people in the Roman Empire, and these are all accurate historical details to give credibility, and reliability.
Luke 2:4-5, “4 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.”
- In verses 4 and 5 we meet Joseph and Mary, and Joseph and Mary are about the most common, unimpressive people you could imagine. They’re not powerful. They’re not wealthy. They’re not socially impressive, and it is because Luke isn’t trying to tell an engaging story about Joseph and Mary, but instead Luke is providing a reliable account of Jesus’ birth, and Luke anchors his description in the phrase, “Because he was of the house and family of David.”
- The phrase is a reminder of the promise of a Savior that is coming that is all throughout the Old Testament. Lets just look at 3 of those promises:
2 Samuel 7:16, “16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’”
- This is Samuel speaking, Old Testament, speaking to King David about a descendent ruling on the throne of David forever. Now, if you know the Old Testament, then you know David’s throne passes to Solomon, and from Solomon the kingdom splits into two, and then eventually David’s Kingdom is taken over by Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia, then Rome, and historically it looks like the “Throne of David” is gone. But in Luke 2 we are about to see a descendent of David, through Joseph and Mary, is coming and He will sit upon “the throne for eternity.” That’s Jesus!
Isaiah 7:14, “14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
- In Isaiah, Old Testament, we see another one of the 300 promises when Isaiah tells us this promised Savior will be born of a virgin, she will bear a son, and she will call Him Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
- Can you imagine the people in Isaiah’s day trying to wrap their brain around this promise? The God of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers is going to come one day, and dwell with us, walk with us, and be with us? Are you kidding? That’s Jesus!
Micah 5:2, “2 But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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.”
- Do you see the phrase, “from the days of eternity?” The word, “eternity” in the original language means, “eternity!
- Who is going to be reign forever? Who is going to be God in the flesh who walks among us? Who is going to be born in the little town of Bethlehem, because a Roman Emperor forces a governmental census that forces Joseph and Mary to walk across the land? His name is Jesus!
Why is this important? It is because the birth of Jesus is reliable. Listen, I think it is possible that sometimes we treat our faith in Jesus like we treat our Christmas decorations.
Once a year we crawl up into the attic, we pull out our faith, we sing some songs, we get together with friends and family, and we say to ourselves, “Ah, isn’t this sweet.” Then, 30 days go by, we pack up the story, and we put it back in the attic, and Luke 2 presses into us, “You can’t do that!”
This isn’t a fantastical story that someone made up, and we still hold on to today. This isn’t just a family tradition built around turkey and presents. This isn’t just a school holiday, so we can go on vacation. These are credible events. These are reliable details, and Luke is constantly reminding us of the weight of what is taking place in Luke 2.
Luke 2:6-7, “6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
- One of the most intriguing parts of these first seven verses in Luke 2 is that Jesus, God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all these promises throughout the Old Testament begins with an insignificant beginning.
- Today we elevate the nativity scene, we make the event sentimental and almost cute, as the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head, because we know how the story ends, but at this point in the story the birth of Jesus isn’t cute.
- Joseph and Mary are about to have their first child in feed trough, and the context is bleak. There’s no mistletoe, there’s no Bing Crosby singing about White Christmas in the background. Instead there’s manure being scraped out of the way, there’s rats scurrying into the corner, and there’s hardship.
- Don’t misunderstand…Jesus could have come as a general or a king. Jesus could have come in riding on a horse with power. Jesus could have come in a palace surrounded by guards. Jesus could have been born at the height of Mt. Everest where he grows in wisdom and comes down like the Reverent, but instead we two broken down teenagers in a place of desperation and isolation, so that nobody can say that Jesus is out of their reach.
This isn’t the fullest scope of what is being taught in Luke 2, but over Thanksgiving our family went to Denton, and while we were out to lunch one day my wife says, “Lets go visit the University of North Texas” where I graduated. Caw!
While we were there we walked to the spot where I asked her on the first date and like the movie, “We Bought A Zoo” we told our children, “It happened right here.” Your life began right here! And then my son said, “Oh yeah” and punched me in the gut.
But, can you imagine if I walked up to 19-year old Holly that day, and told her everything about our life, and said, “You want to get married?” Imagine, me saying, “Hey! My name is Michael. What do you think about us getting married, having two children (one that is blonde hair and blue eyes, one with red hair, but somehow they still look like us), and then I become a pastor, which makes you a pastor’s wife, and to top it off, we are going to start a church out of our living room, and live in Austin?”
Now, we know the story, so this invitation sounds awesome, right! But, if I said that to a 19-year old Holly she would have run as fast as she can! It would be too much. She would be overtaken by the glory of the presentation.
In Luke 2, if Jesus shows up and upload all of His glory at the incarnation our minds and bodies would have literally exploded. We would have run from His presence. We would have vaporized from His glory. It would be too much.
Jesus’ literally has to ease us into His glory by coming as someone who is non-threatening as an infant in a manger that is available and relatable to all people. Do you know how unusual this is in our faith?
In every other world belief system there is a great spiritual leader always saying, “Here I am, come to me.” Buddha says, “This is glory, now meditate, do yoga, connect with divine conscience, all of creation is just a cosmic force, reincarnation, and you maybe you too can be glorious enough to arrive?”
Muhammad says, “Here I am, come to me, read the Koran, obey the Koran, say the prayers, be the good person, chase after it.” Mormons, Jehovah Witness, “Same thing, this is glory, now come get it!”
Even in secularism the carrot is held up, “Be smart, be pretty, be strong, climb the ladder, chase the prize, go!” And yet in Luke 2, at the incarnation, coming from the Latin, in carne, to become flesh, we see the God of Scripture take on flesh and draw near to the most humble and forgettable places of humanity. Who does this?
The God of Scripture doesn’t’ just tell us that He is holy and then give us some tips and tricks on how to get there. No, Jesus doesn’t just come to show us how to be holy. Jesus doesn’t come to tell us to try harder.
If you have grown up in a religious context, Jesus doesn’t come to tell you to try harder. That’s not salvation. No, Jesus comes to rescue. Jesus comes to bring eternal hope. Jesus comes to make us holy. Jesus takes on flesh to draw near to the darkest places of our heart that we will never be able to fix on our own, and bring rescue. His name is Jesus! Won’t you respond to Him, and give your life to Him?