The Christmas story.
A strange story.
An unwed mother.
A seemingly foolish and lovesick fiancee.
Both of them having possibly questionable visions. (hallucinations)
A forced government trip. (Possibly IRS initiated)
A difficult journey.
Being turned down at every hotel in town.
An unsanitary birthplace.
Local lowlifes show up to visit. (who have strange visions also)
Then they go and tell everyone what happened.

Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
Luke 2:2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
Luke 2:3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

Setting the scene: the census of Augustus

This Caesar reigned from 30 BC to 14 AD; Augustus was the first Emperor after Rome had ceased to be a republic, and he came to his position through war and intrigue.

Such a census for taxation was common in ancient Rome, but the timing of it was
clearly ordained by God. In fact, Luke calls this one “the first enrollment” to distinguish it from the well-known enrollment in AD 6 which he later mentions in Acts 5:37

Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, says that you could
look up the registers of the census Luke mentions in his own day

Luke 2:4 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.
Luke 2:5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Mary experienced a virgin birth.
See Luke 1:26-38

This created a huge problem for Joseph.
Mat 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Mat 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Divorce would have been easy for Joseph.
Filling out a paper in the presence of two witnesses, and delivering it to Mary.
He could have avoided this unfortunate occurrence.

But an angel of God came and convinced Joseph to keep Mary as his betrothed wife.
In that day, engagement was seen as serious as marriage.
A year of engagement was to precede marriage.
Faithfulness was expected during this time.
Mary would appear to have been not only unfaithful, but promiscuous.
This would be a great source of heartbreak for Joseph.
It would also be very humiliating for him.

How do you explain that your young teenage fiancée is pregnant?
And that the pregnancy is miraculous?
And that an angel told you this?
That kind of story must have made Joseph the object of much pity and the butt of many jokes.

How do you go on living when people ask you how long you have been married?
And then they ask how old Jesus is?
And then they figure out that He was born out of wedlock?

How would Joseph have felt if people said they saw no family resemblance between him and Jesus?
There was so much that Joseph and Mary would endure.
So many proud and critical people that would see Jesus and his family as something not worthy of their interest.
BUT, so many outcasts and commoners that would feel that Jesus was very approachable.

Luke 2:6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
Luke 2:7 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.

The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 80 miles; and was not a short distance in those days.

We often think that Mary was rather close to delivery when they made this journey, but this may not have been the case at all; Joseph may have been anxious to get her out of Nazareth to avoid the pressure of scandal

In fact, according to the Roman law, Mary didn’t have to go with Joseph for
the tax census; but it made sense for her to go with Joseph, especially because
she was in the latter stages of a controversial pregnancy – surely the subject of
much gossip in Nazareth.
Also, they were engaged to be married.

“It is possible that he used the emperor’s order as a means of removing Mary
from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village. He had already
accepted her as his wife (Matthew 1:24), but apparently continued in betrothal
(Luke 2:5), pledged to be married, till after the birth.” (Liefeld)

One of the striking things about Luke’s narrative is how simple it is in contrast to how great the events are.
Our modern world hypes meaningless events so much (like the Super Bowl), that it is hard for us to appreciate how simply stated this greatest of events can be

She brought forth is filled with wonder; we are not told that anyone assisted Mary in the birth (though someone may have); no matter what, this young woman was completely separated from all her family and support.
Except for Joseph, she was alone.

“That Mary wrapped the child herself points to a lonely birth.” (Morris)
Even Joseph must have felt strange at the time; perhaps that sort of “God, I
know this is something great but I don’t really understand it and it makes me
nervous” kind of feeling

Where did this happen?
In 150 AD, Justin Martyr said that the place Jesus was born was a cave in Bethlehem.
Later on, in 330, a church was built over the cave, which many believe is still the most probable place where Jesus was born.

Mat 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus, Joshua, was a very common name.
So Jesus became just another name of the 1000’s who were on the roll cards of the Empire of Rome.
No fanfare, or great welcome.
Just another baby, with a Jewish name, who would grow up and pay taxes just like every other Joshua in Israel.

Our Nativity scenes don’t quite bring forth the true feeling of what it was like.
We love our Nativity scenes, but there is a point where the realism must cease.
The point in question has to do with what a real stable smells like.
Not to mention having to watch where you step.
And then there are the insects.
Not to mention animal saliva on the feeding trough.
Along with no permanent light and no heat.

I was present at the birth of all three of my children.
We went to Lamaze classes and learned about childbirth.
I learned about my role as a husband and a coach.
We learned about the monitors available to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, and other vitals.
We learned what was available in case of complications during the births.

In spite of all of that, we were still pretty nervous.
We wanted just the right nurse.
Just the right birthing room.
Just the right doctor.

How must Joseph have felt?
Unable to provide for his young wife.
And all b/c God told him that this was going to work out just fine?

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
The angels bring good tidings (preaching the gospel) to these shepherds, who were pretty much social outcasts

Shepherds- In the time of King David, being a shepherd was a more respectable occupation.
But by the time that Jesus was born, it was a title of dishonor.
They were known as thieves.
“As a class shepherds had a bad reputation. . . . More regrettable was their
habit of confusing ‘mine’ with ‘thine’ as they moved about the country. They were
considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law courts.”

They usually weren’t welcome in town.
People usually didn’t believe their words either.

Bethlehem’s shepherds were known to care for the temple flock – these men may
have been watching out for the sacrificial lambs.

Luke 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The shepherds were, no doubt, Jewish.
At least culturally, if not spiritually, they would be at least open to the idea of angels.
And so God spoke to them that way.

Matthew tells us that the wise men, saw His star, and they were drawn to Christ by a star.
God speaking to them in a way that they were open to and looking for.

They announce the birth of a Saviour, which is exactly what we need; we don’t
need another an advisor, a reformer, or a committee, but a saviour!

After the single angel’s announcement, a whole group of angels appeared – a
heavenly host (a band of soldiers) that proclaims peace; the world needed then and needs now peace

The contrast between the angelic glory and the humble Jesus must have seemed
extreme; but God loves to put His glory in unlikely packages

Luke 2:15 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.”
Luke 2:16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

The shepherds come and see the child Jesus

Let us now go shows a real urgency; they didn’t hesitate at all

They needed to had been told in advance that the Savior of the World would be
found laying in a feeding trough; otherwise, they would have never believed it
Calvin, on their visit to Mary: “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”

Luke 2:17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
Luke 2:18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
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.
The shepherds spread the news of Jesus’ birth
“Their zeal in glorifying and praising God is an implied reproof of our indolence,
or rather of our ingratitude.
If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?” (Calvin)

Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart; “The wonder of the
many was a transient emotion (aorist), this recollecting and brooding of Mary was an abiding habit (imperfect).” (Bruce)

Mary had good reason to meditate – what had brought her to Bethlehem?
An emperor’s grand decree from Rome, and gossiping tongues in Nazareth.
God works through all kinds of people and all kinds of events to accomplish His plan

The time of Jesus’ birth was when Rome ruled much of the civilized world.
The rule and peace of Rome was called Pax Romana.
There was peace, but it was peace b/c of force.
Rome crushed anyone who rose up against them.

Epictetus, a first century pagan writer: “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy; he cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearn for more than even outward peace.”

Isa 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus Christ
Coming to us in a way that we could understand.
Very approachable, not beyond us.
Laying aside His glory to be touchable.

Knowable, wanting to be known by each one here.
Worthy of our excitement, but only through personal knowledge.
Worthy to be zealous over, and for, but not b/c someone tells we should be.

One who can change us, if we know Him.
Not one we should change for just b/c someone tells us to.

The knowable, loving God.