Week commencing 10 March 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Luke 2:1-21 – that a Saviour was born who is both Messiah and Lord.
Our Term 1 series is: “Luke – you can be certain…” Here is the outline:
|03 Feb||How?||Luke 1:1-4|
|10 Feb||…that John the Baptist was a gift from God||Luke 1:5-25|
|17 Feb||…that Jesus was miraculously conceived||Luke 1:26-38|
|24 Feb||…that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part I||Luke 1:39-56|
|03 Mar||A pause to the series as we welcome Bishop Chris Edwards|
|10 Mar||…that God’s eternal promises were being fulfilled Part II||Luke 1:57-80|
|17 Mar||…that a Saviour was born who is both Messiah and Lord||Luke 2:1-21|
|24 Mar||…that Jesus brought God’s salvation||Luke 2:22-40|
|31 Mar||…that Jesus grew in wisdom and favour||Luke 2:41-52|
|07 Mar||…that John preached a baptism of repentance||Luke 3:1-20|
|14 Apr||…that Jesus was God’s Son whom he loved||
DAY 1: Read Luke 2:1-7
This passage is SO familiar! We have heard it read probably every Christmas we’ve been alive and probably more than once! So let’s try and come at it with fresh eyes this week!
The birth of every child is a marvellous miracle of God. But not since the world began was a birth so wonderful and utterly unique as the birth of Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 3:16 makes it abundantly clear – God appeared in the flesh! The blessings which flow from this are immeasurable!
We need to acknowledge that there is no secular record of a census ordered by Augustus at this time. We ought not to be troubled by this, when we realise that we actually have less than 1% of all documentation from this period. But you should also know that when Augustus died, he left in his own handwriting a summary of information, such as statistics on direct and indirect taxation, which would most probably have been derived from the censuses he conducted. Luke didn’t need to mention the census at all of course, but it seems to be part of his aim in writing to set his story in the secular context of the time. God is the Lord of history, and he uses the actions of this emperor to put in place his eternal plans and purposes. Since Joseph was of the family of David he had to report at Bethlehem, called the city of David.
Much has been written in recent years about the word that was for centuries translated ‘inn’. Of course, all the Christmas children’s pageants make a great deal of this point. With research into language progressing over time, it seems however, that our new NIV has it right and the word is more accurately translated ‘guest room’. Joseph and Mary were more than likely in someone’s home but in the main living area because there was no guest room. This is where animals typically spent the night – hence Jesus being laid in an animal’s feeding trough.
Note then, the humble circumstances in which the eternal Son of God, through whom and for whom the world was created, entered into our existence. We are reminded of the grace and condescension of the Messiah. He did not come with royal majesty surrounded by angels, nor did he choose to dwell in a palace with great power and authority. He came among the poor and the lowly with a feeding trough for his bed and no place to call his own. Such was his love and humility as he takes the form of a servant!
DAY 2: Read Luke 2:8-12
Shepherds were lowly people (often despised) and it is to them that the announcement of the Saviour’s birth is made. This is consistent with teaching elsewhere in Scripture, that the things of God’s kingdom are often hidden from the great and noble and revealed to the poor and lowly.
Once again, the sudden appearance of an angel strikes terror – as it would for us today! Take careful note of the emphasis on joy here! The angel has good news which will cause great joy! The spiritual darkness which had covered the earth for thousands of years, was about to be rolled away. The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be made possible for all. The head of Satan was about to be crushed (see Genesis 1:15). Liberty was about to be proclaimed to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. The mighty truth was about to be proclaimed that God could be just and yet through Christ, justify the ungodly! God was present in the one born, to make himself known and redeem mankind.
The baby born had already been named Jesus – “the Lord is salvation”. Now, three additional names are added so that we might see clearly the significance of the child. Saviour – the one who alone can rescue mankind from its sin, misery and mortality. Messiah – ‘the anointed one, the chosen’. He is the one promised of old and long awaited. Lord – which Luke has already used as the regular title for God himself but now applies to the baby! He is presented here as the one with equal divine authority!
God’s saving work will be done through Jesus. To him is given God’s authority and he is himself, God come in the flesh: Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord. In him and nowhere else is salvation to be found. How can we say enough about him? Yes! Good news which will cause great joy!
DAY 3: Read Luke 2:13-15
The angel completed his message (v12) by giving the shepherds a sign. This would help them recognise the baby, but it would also attest to the truth of the angel’s words. In Bethlehem that night there might be one or two babies wrapped in cloths but surely only one lying in a manger.
As the message ended, there suddenly appeared a multitude of other angels praising God. They are called a ‘host’ or sometimes the word is translated ‘army’. They announce peace! First, they give glory to God and they announce peace to those on whom his favour rests. This is not peace to all, please note. There is an emphasis on the work and choice of God, not of mankind. It is those whom God chooses, rather than those who choose God, of whom the angels speak. Peace refers to peace between mankind and God – the healing of the estrangement caused by our rebellion.
The shepherds hurried to see for themselves. It is not easy to convey in English the sense of urgency imparted by the words used here in the original. We do not see them doubt or question or hesitate! Strange and improbable as these tidings must have seemed, they act on them immediately.
Surely we must join the shepherds in, as it were, seeking him with all haste, falling before him in awe and wonder and then making known the wonderful news!
DAY 4: Read Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds found everything as the angel had said. Their simple faith received a rich reward. They had the mighty privilege of being the first of all mankind, after Mary and Joseph, to see the new born Messiah. Notice their first inclination once they had seen the baby? – they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. Luke then records the amazement with which everybody received the news of why they had come. Note that while the shepherds went and told the news to anyone who would listen, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. She took all that was happening on board to mull it over and take in slowly. One commentator said she treasured all this, and retained it in the inmost recesses of her being.
The shepherds returned to their fields, glorifying and praising God for what they had seen. Again, may we be like them in this sense – that we trust what has been revealed to us by God’s word, act promptly and wait for nothing when the way forward is clear!
The journey begun by trusting God, will generally end in praise.
Resources: Luke, Leon Morris in the Tyndale series,
JC Ryle commentary on Luke and Michael Wilcock in BST series