Luke 2:1-20: Christmas Eve

With all the pandemonium and turmoil, no worse time can come for a holy birth.  Think of the upheaval a census will cause throughout the Roman world.  Every person not living in his ancestral town now needs to pack up and move, no matter the distance.  Many are upset and outraged, for Rome doesn’t cover the cost of the trip, the loss of income while not working.  Still, everyone in the Empire must obey the Decree. 

The reason for the census is money, making sure no one can shirk the taxes Rome expects to receive.  Behind all this is the unspoken point of who is in command—Caesar and his Army!  The locals may prefer something else, but their wishes don’t matter.  Any resistance will find itself trembling at the end of a Roman spear.

In Judea, this whole business about taxation troubles the people.  The Imperial mandate announces their humiliation to all.  The Jews prided themselves on their heritage and independence.  Some 30 years earlier, they walked the world’s stage as a sovereign nation.  No more, with this imposed accounting of people displaying their subjugation to a foreign emperor and his puppet, their local ruler, King Herod.  Any notion they are free crumbles in the trampled dust of angry travelers.

So the move begins.  Both rich and poor crowd the roads, jostling in frustration.  The stronger push the weak, and many merchants overcharge for the goods they need on the journey.  No, this is not a fun time for either prince, pauper, or peasant, as the most crucial event in human history unfolds. 

Now, what if you and I ran the world?  Oh, we will pick a time of peace and stability.  For nothing should overshadow the biggest event of the day.  The news can spread, and people can take note, not be distracted.  With such confusion during Jesus’ birth, who will want to listen?  No, this is the worst possible time for the Savior’s birth, not only within Judea but for His mother, who is heavy with child.

Let’s arrange things, so Mary isn’t so far along in her pregnancy.  No mother should travel days and hours, so near to her due date.  How she must suffer on this laborsome journey, assuming she rode on a donkey.  The written record doesn’t tell us she did.  Perhaps, she walked.

Consider the other obstacles—Christ is born in a place, which housed animals.  How disgraceful!  Other than Joseph, no one can assist at the childbirth.  Can a pious man not provide some shelter for this weary couple?  Some woman, somewhere, should be able to help this young mother with the birth. 

Oh, what about the angels?  Soon, shepherds will be awestruck before them.  Still, these angelic beings are not here, singing Heaven’s praises at His coming.  So useful they can be, providing their presence here instead of appearing to others.  Much comfort they can offer, not only to Mary but also Joseph.  Earlier, an angel appeared to him in a dream, assuring him the child inside Mary is God’s Son, not the result of her promiscuity.

For His purposes, Your heavenly Father is working through all our scheming and manipulation.  Beneath the surface, unseen to our eye, events continue, revealing this to be the best time for the Christ-Child’s birth.  First, we must reflect on the matter of Bethlehem.  The prophet Micah foretold Jesus will be born, not anywhere, but in Bethlehem.  So close to giving birth, Joseph and Mary are still far away in Nazareth. 

Famed as King David’s hometown, Bethlehem is now a nothing village, a few miles removed from all-important Jerusalem.  Though Mary is of royal lineage, she grew up a peasant girl from Nazareth—and she goes to bear a Child in yet a smaller town. 

From eternity, Jesus dwells in the highest heavens.  In unity with the Father and the Spirit, before creation and time began, He lived—perfect, needing nothing and no one.  Now this, coming into His world, in such a backwater place!

Tell me, how are we to handle Jesus’ virgin birth?  A pregnant mother is betrothed but not married.  Any sane person can only think this is some concocted, unbelievable story a woman uses to try to conceal the truth.  No woman becomes pregnant without a man’s involvement.

These concerns now shrink and shrivel, neglected and abandoned in Nazareth.  The census will force the Messiah’s mother to journey to Bethlehem.  For Joseph is no longer anxious and irate because his betrothed is pregnant.  The angel’s visit brought him peace of mind (Matthew 1:18-25).  Tucked within the chaos of travel, Joseph brings Mary to a town where the scandal is unknown. 

For mighty Caesar, little does he realize he is a pawn in God’s wondrous working of salvation.  All Rome wants is a census, to tally those subject, to pay their taxes.  Not so with God.  No, He is more interested in another number.  Through this blessed birth, He wants, instead, to count us as His own. 

The Roman Emperor wants his money.  The King of Heaven wants to give the gift of our Redeemer.  Though Caesar tries to show he is in control, God sits in heaven, laughing, as He carries out His plan for our eternal life.

The whole world is in turmoil as God descends from His glorious throne.  Repressive Rome, a repulsive Herod, and the thousands travel, moving by heaven-born events too complex and hidden to fathom.  Through our every evil machination, God remains trustworthy and still honors His pledge. 

Such reassurance, for we often fear God might not do what He says because of a sin-filled world and our sinful flesh.  Remember Jesus’ birth, and you will realize—the despairing conscience and the forlorn heart cannot obstruct His saving intent.  Recall the census, and you will better understand God, who moved all creation to rescue you. 

So, do not fear.  On this night, I give you of glad tidings of greatest joy.  The Faithful One keeps His Word.  To us, He delivers His redeeming Son, fulfilling His promises of old.  Though all may appear unseen and unnoticed, God is constant and faithful, working through what you cannot comprehend for your eternity.  All this He does in the time of His choosing, in conditions never beyond His control (Galatians 4:4).

Behold, the night is half-spent.  The messianic prophecy unfolds, as Jesus empties Himself of all appearances as the Almighty (Wisdom 18:14-15, Philippians 2:6-8).  Though we may think ourselves in charge, Jesus stoops to be born of a virgin.  The poorest of the poor, this Infant makes His first home with sheep and cattle. 

With nothing but an animal dwelling and rags to swaddle Him, God’s Son sleeps in an animal’s feeding trough.  The Savior of the world is now a weak, flesh-and-blood Infant.  The divine Father spares Him from nothing—not from need, nor the humiliation of His Christmas Day birth.  For this is but the beginning—before all is over, He will humble Himself still more, dying as an accused criminal, executed on a Roman cross.  Yes, The Lord is in the mix of our every event so He can come and save us. 

So, what of your birth; no, not physical, but spiritual?  By water and Spirit, God birthed you into His kingdom by using baptism.  Like before, He moves in history to make this happen!  Not an accident, nor some mindless coincidence; no, your God works in and through all.  In His gracious will, He wanted to bring you the benefit of His Son’s most holy birth in Your new birth from above, by Word and water!

Contemplate, as did Mary, the birth of Jesus.  Understand your Lord.  The One from all glory comes not to take but to provide, joining you to Himself.  All this He does to present Himself to you, to someone poor in spirit, someone in need, so like Himself on the day of His nativity. 

In some restless night hour, when sleep refuses to come, brood over, once again, what God brought to the shepherds, to Mary, to Joseph, and you.  In your spirit and soul, you will return to Christ and find yourself resting in the protection of His holy angels.  The incarnation of pardon and peace comes to you, once more, fresh and new. 

In a fleeting of time, when the distractions of life clamor and what you need to do will not leave, learn from the Virgin Mother.  Take a moment to treasure and another to ponder.  The Redeemer from death is born.  Some 2,000 years ago, God did not become troubled and forget you.  No, He reigned over the earth and all history, delivering His Christmas Gospel.  So, He is not too busy for you now. 

In the Person of His Son, God chose not to despise necessity and sorrow, including death, to earn immortality for you.  Nothing did He spare so you might meet Him, embrace Him, and spend eternity with Him. 

Today, Jesus is still the human Savior.  Though no longer wrapped in swaddling clothes, He does clothe Himself in something else, humble words, preached this night into your ears.  Yes, treasure.  Yes, ponder because the message is precious, and the joy is unending.  For when you are in Christ, all eternity is yours.  Amen.