Luke is telling us a tremendous story. We are being brought into this story, the birth of Jesus. He tells us the whole story in just seven verses. There’s been a lot building up to this and Luke is trying to bring us up to speed. Have you ever been watching a movie when someone else comes into the room and asks you to update you on what’s happening? What did I miss? Luke gives us the background here. Luke 2 is the story of the birth of Jesus, how Jesus was born and how God walks with us. This helps us understand life and Christmas.
God’s plan emerges from the chaos of life.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Luke 2.4-5 (ESV)
Joseph and Mary’s traveling will all make sense in the end. The government decreed that all people needed to be registered. This could not have come at a worse time for Mary and Joseph. God can use the plans of Rome. God can use the chaos in our lives too.
Joseph is doing what he is supposed to do. He is a law abiding citizen. Some during that time were Zealots, people who were intent in overthrowing the government. Every picture we have of Joseph shows us he was a man intent on following God. It would have been very easy to rebel in his situation. His hometown was Bethlehem. Joseph has this legal reason to return to Bethlehem, his true home.
It’s like when someone asks you where you’re from, for example. You might say something like, “Well, I grew up in Alabama but my home now is here in Asheboro.” For some of you you’ve grown up in the same place you live in now. We understand the difference between home and where we grew up. Joseph is going back home. This also tells us something: the return to Bethlehem is foreshadowing something greater.
Jesus us fully man and fully God. Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. Jesus comes to save us, lead us and rule us. Jesus is the King of our lives. Bethlehem is the birthplace of Kings! Out in the fields near Bethlehem sheep are being raised to be sacrificed in the temple for centuries. It was near these same fields that God spoke to Samuel about the family of Jesse saying that one of Jesse’s sons would be king. Samuel arrives in Bethlehem near these same fields and Samuel goes through each son… Nope, not this one, send in the next. Nope, not this one either. Send in the next one. And then Jesse said he had just one more son but he was just a kid tending the sheep in the fields. David meets Samuel and he is declared king.
Now God is to bring forth His son for all time. Luke is wanting people to know this background. Jesus comes to be king over us. Mary and Joseph had a chaotic journey. It was about 85 miles long. It entailed about a 700 foot gain in elevation. It wasn’t an easy journey. Why is God doing all of this? Maybe there’s things in you life that cause you to ask the same question? Things that you do not fully understand? God can use your circumstances. The hand of god is in all of this. God’s providence is in all things.
Time is important to God.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Luke 2.6 (ESV)
The timing of Jesus’ birth from the outside looks like a random timing of events. We all begin feeling a time crunch this time of year. We have lots of memories. We see in our mind the nativity. This story might take us about 15 minutes to tell, to tell the whole thing. The story is short but these events took place over a number of weeks and even years. The wise men took years to find Jesus. Mary sees something greater: the hand of God, and at just the right time, Jesus was born. It begins to make sense here. God’s in control of all of it. Mary and Joseph surrendered control in the way Jesus was born. Sometimes we struggle with this.
Moses struggled with this too. In Exodus 2 Moses is about 40 years old. He grew up in privileged Egyptian circumstances. He was an Israelite who grew up as an Egyptian. In his core he was an Israelite. His people were being mistreated, living in slavery. It was right for him to be upset about this! The problem was Moses’ timing. Moses wanted justice but he got the timing all wrong. Moses killed an Egyptian and then he tried to hide it. He fled Egypt and lived in exile for 40 years. We know the Exodus story. Moses isn’t waiting on God.
Here, a couple, Joseph and Mary wait on God. God brings these things to pass at the right time. I don’t know what you’re waiting on in your life right now.
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Genesis 1.5 (ESV)
God made time for us. Time matters. God figured time so we’d have days, weeks, months and a calendar. God acts in time, but we think God doesn’t understand time. God made time. He understands. He is aware. God is in control of all of this. Paul explains later in Galatians 4:4:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. Galatians 4.4 (ESV)
May it be a reminder to us that God cares about us. When unexpected things surprise us, God isn’t surprised. God knows what we are going through. Mary thinks about how God brought all of this together. One thing I love about Jesus’ birth is that God does things in His own way. Babies come when they want to come, right? We cannot control when they come. Jesus happened in this same way. One of the greatest parts of this narrative is that Jesus’ birth is an ordinary birth. All of Heaven is exploding with joy but on earth everything is ordinary and common.
We discover the Jesus way.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2.7 (ESV)
Newborns were wrapped in swaddling cloths. This was to help their legs straighten out. Mary knew how to wrap Jesus. The shepherds knew they were looking for a newborn. All this is very normal. In our western culture we think, “How horrible for Mary, “but this was not chaotic. Mary isn’t talking about how horrible her circumstances were. She is telling us how ordinary the circumstances were. The word for inn and the word for guestroom are the same. Families lived in one large room, there were animals that lived with them too. The people slept on a higher level, maybe in a loft. The homes had mangers, or feeding troughs in them. When Mary tells this story it was common. It wasn’t fancy, but ordinary. We all tell our stories of when our children were born too. Some of you have told me that when you were a baby you slept in a drawer, for example. We don’t think that’s strange or cruel because it was common.
There’s something deeper in all of this. We know this is the son of God, born in Bethlehem, the King forever. He will go to the cross for us. Jesus was born in an ordinary way. There wasn’t a huge celebration. It was common. This is a story of how God walks with us. God enters into our normal, ordinary lives. We think of all this before God can walk with us. God enters our lives just the way we are. God doesn’t need something fancy. We don’t need to clean ourselves up, no special arrangements needed. God wants to enter in right where we are, right now, today.
Some people we clean up our homes before they come to visit. Others we don’t prepare for at all. Why? They know us. They accept us. There’s no great arrangement. God enters where we are. Sometimes we put God off and think we aren’t ready for God, but God is ready for us. God enters into our brokenness. God will transform. There are extra preparations to make. We are called to welcome Him. Let’s stop giving reasons why we are not ready.