By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Dean of the Center for Christian Calling, University of Mobile
YOU WILL FIND
Luke’s gospel was written for discipleship and dedicated to the reader who is loved by God (Theophilus). The account records significant aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Each of the first three chapters mentions specific civil leaders with political and religious authority.
Details about the annunciation, visit by the shepherds, dedication of Jesus at the temple, encounters with Anna and Simeon and Jesus’ bar mitzvah indicate Luke may have interviewed Mary personally.
In this special Christmas lesson, we review the familiar story from Luke 2.
The Birth (1–7)
Caesar Augustus reigned in Rome from 23 B.C. to A.D. 14. His “world” stretched as far west as Hispania (Spain), an expanding empire that enjoyed relative peace through military strength known as Pax Romana.
Taxing was the means of fundraising for military and infrastructure projects. It was often accompanied by a census or registration.
Looking at verse 7, readers might wonder “What about the inn? What are these modern translators doing with our Bible?”
The answer is that the word previously translated as inn is not the word for the kind of place where caravans might rest at night.
The word here is “katalyma” and is the same word used when the disciples were procuring a place for the Last Supper (Luke 22:11).
This room was located within a personal home.
The verse carries with it the idea of “there was no space in the guest room,” rather than “there was no vacancy at the local motel,” as we often interpret it through our own context.
The Announcement (8–12)
The announcer: Previously in Luke, Gabriel announced the coming of the Messiah.
He informed Zechariah about the ensuing birth of John (1:19).
Months later, he told Mary that God had chosen her to bear the Messiah (1:28).
The recipients: A handful of shepherds were tending flocks in an open field outside Bethlehem. In the first century these hired hands did not have the same respect they held during the time David served as Israel’s shepherd king.
Instead, they were sometimes hirelings who would leave the flocks and run from danger. On this night though, they would leave the flocks to heed the message of the angel and see the newborn baby.
The message: I can hear Linus reciting this announcement in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” When Charlie asks if anyone knows what Christmas is all about, Linus quotes the angelic message.
It has been a reminder to kids since 1965 and to Bible readers today that Jesus’ birth is what Christmas is all about.
The wrapping of the Christmas gift: Imagine a baby wrapped in gauze strips.
His covering resembled the wrappings on a corpse, rather than the blanket we often see in hospital labor and delivery units.
Mary had a little lamb. This lamb was born to die as the sacrifice for all who believe in Him. Seek and you will find Him.
The Song (13–15)
Gloria in excelsis Deo! The attendance for the nativity concert looked like a Wednesday night prayer meeting!
God chose a handful of shepherds as the first human witnesses to the birth of the Lamb, revealing His glory through common means. He still uses common witnesses.
Glory to God in the highest! Merry Christmas!