Lessons & Carols: Lesson 2

Andy Ott (Director of Communications & Technology)

Lesson 2: Luke 2:1-7

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

As Ryan mentioned last week, the town of Bethlehem was a very small town – one that folks would never have taken an interest in during the first century. Yet God in His sovereignty chose to use this small town to change the world. He told the prophet Micah hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth that it would happen. Then He used the political situation of the day (Augustus’ desire for a census) to move Joseph and Mary exactly where he wanted them to be: Joseph’s hometown.

On the personal side of the first Christmas – what must have it been like for Joseph to take his young bride back to his family’s hometown? The town was overrun with people – so much so that he and Mary had to take refuge in a less-than-appropriate place for her to give birth.

These weren’t any group of people though. This was family. As extended and diverse as they were, they were still related at some level. Can you imagine rolling up into your hometown with your new bride (whom is obviously pregnant) and having to explain to one of your distant cousins that the baby isn’t yours? How about the frustration that would mount as you realized that you did not have the appropriate funds to pay for an adequate place to stay. Would some sense of panic settle on your soul as you desperately searched for a place to lodge and to best care for your young wife who is approaching heavy labor?

Side-note: the manger was in an area for bedding animals that would have been adjacent – if not attached – to the home where they were staying. They were most likely staying in this portion of the home because they were unable to afford to pay the homeowner an appropriate fee for staying in the main home. This area  would have provided a level of privacy and warmth during the birthing process and while not completely comfortable, it would have been livable for the few days they were expected to remain in town for the census

We have a tendency to move past the details of this story and focus on the closing phrase of this group of verses: She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. This Christmas, slow down for a moment and reflect on the situation that Mary and Joseph found themselves in. This was a forced displacement. They were poor. She was pregnant. This was his family.

In the middle of some messy details, we find the Creator of the Universe breaking into His creation as a baby (John 1:1-4; 10). In the middle of an obscure town in Judah, the promised king from the line of David, whose throne would be established forever was born (2 Sam 7). In the middle of political dysfunction, we see the King of kings (Revelation 17:14) usher in a new type of kingdom – not one established by power and might, but one that would be low, humble and accessible for all peoples.

As you reflect on the first Christmas, don’t move passed the mess. God Himself came into the mess to provide the necessary sacrifice to buy us back to Himself. He came in the lowest possible form – as a baby – to show us that He could relate to our human experience in its fullness. In the middle of the mess of the first Christmas we find the greatest gift – Hope.

Post Series: Advent 2015

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