Previously, I noted that the work of redemption is described in various ways in the Bible. The primary theme associated with the ministry of Christ, however, is peace. Before He came, the prophets described peace as one of the leading characteristics of His reign as our Redeemer-King. While on earth, Jesus frequently spoke of peace as He taught His disciples and, on occasion, strangers. In the epistles, we find this same theme expounded upon.

The lack of peace between God and man is traceable, as we know, to man’s fall in the Garden; that incident set the human race on a course of conflict—conflict with God, of course, but also conflict with one another. This latter issue is described by God when He confronts our first parents and the serpent. The LORD says that two lines will come forth from the woman—the line of the Deliverer and the line of the serpent. They will engage in continuing battle until the serpent’s head is crushed by the One who will be sent into the world from heaven.

The coming of the Savior is often described as the arrival of peace, the cessation of conflicts, and the end of hostility throughout God’s creation. The Lord’s appearance is seen as a restoration of the harmony that once characterized God’s creation. In the Savior, fallen man is reconciled to God and enjoys peace once more.

Please read Luke 2:1-20

In the first seven verses of Luke 2, we are given a brief account of Christ’s birth. Luke merely gives us a broad description of the circumstances in which the Child was born. In response to an order by the Romans, Joseph made his way to Bethlehem in order to register for a census (vv. 1-4). Luke adds that Joseph was accompanied by Mary who was engaged to him and who was “with child.” (v. 5) Nothing else is said to establish the context for what is about to take place.

We know from other portions of Scripture that Joseph is aware that Mary has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and he knows that she is carrying the Christ. After this limited introduction, Luke writes:

“6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

One issue of inconvenience for Joseph and Mary was the fact that they could not secure a normal hotel room due to the fact that the city was filled with visitors who had come to register for the census. But the truth is, God arranged this context for the birth of the Christ.

Think of all the wonderful descriptions of Christ that we find in the Bible. Think of all the wonderful things said about Him—what He would be and what He would do; think of the fact that previous generations had hoped in Him, had prayed for His coming, and had been kept from despair by the mere thought that someday the Messiah would come into the world.

The fact that Mary and Joseph did not have a typical place to spend the night is attributable to something more than the overcrowding of the city due to the census. Through His prophets, the LORD declared that the circumstances of the Savior’s birth would emphasize His humble character. God appointed these circumstances and this time so that His Son would come into the world in a manner fitting for a Servant.

But let’s also remember a few other things, such as God’s declaration that the One to come would crush the head of the serpent and destroy his works. And remember God’s dramatic judgment of sin in Noah’s day to demonstrate that righteousness would yet triumph (and thus the promise of a Deliverer was kept alive).

Recall God’s words to Abraham in which that patriarch heard of a world-wide blessing to be brought by the Savior; and the days of Moses, the people were reminded with every sacrifice—especially the annual sacrifice for the nation on the day of atonement—that a great and powerful Savior would one day come and accomplish in reality what was pictured in the types of the Levitical system.

Remember how the coming Savior was presented in David’s day—as a beautifully arrayed and victorious Warrior-King; and think back to Isaiah’s incredible description of the work of the Messiah. He would bring light to those sitting in darkness; He would bring peace to the world; He would have all authority and He would be God in the flesh.

Keeping all that in mind, keeping in mind the magnificent buildup that the Messiah has had over the centuries, keeping in mind what His coming meant to mankind, listen again to Luke’s words: “6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The Baby referred to is that One promised by God, explained to Abraham, pictured in Israel’s religious services, described by David as a stunning and mighty King, and presented by Isaiah as Ruler of the earth! And here He is being born in a stable—not a palace, not even in a home; and being wrapped in cloths, not garments of royalty.

And yet—and here is one of the unique truths about the Christian faith—this is perfectly in keeping with everything we have learned about the Messiah. How can that be? It is so because the information given to us prior to this event describes a King of a different kind and a Ruler of a different authority and a Captain of a different army. This One comes to accomplish a great feat, but not through the means normally employed in this world.

From the moment of His birth to the day of His death, Jesus displayed meekness. This Savior comes to rule by submitting to Another and gain the conquest by surrendering Himself. This is God’s Messiah, not the world’s version; this is the One who saves from sin and gives eternal security, not one who merely delivers from temporal threats. This is the Christ, the Savior of our race and Luke’s portrayal of His humble beginning is completely in keeping, as I said before, with the image we have throughout the Old Testament.

After telling us the most basic facts about the circumstances of the Savior’s birth, Luke continues and describes the announcement that was made on that night. Somewhere outside the town of Bethlehem, there were certain shepherds (v. 8). These men had settled in for the night; their animals were resting and they, no doubt, would soon take turns sleeping and keeping watch over the flock.

On this night, everything appeared routine. In fact, everything seemed routine throughout the whole world. There were no celebrations because no one knew what was happening. However, heaven knew was happening and Luke tells us about heavenly beings who made an announcement regarding the Savior’s birth:

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

One second, these shepherds were enjoying a quiet evening after a long day of hard work; they were preparing for the night watch. The next second, however, the area is filled with the purest light they have ever seen and an angel is speaking to them. They had never had such an experience. They were simple men, men of no renown.

Yet, they were the perfect candidates to be the first to hear of the Messiah’s birth. He, too, will be a Shepherd. He will be judged as a Man of no renown in the eyes of the world; He will know what it is to labor and to care for those around Him. He, too, will have a flock—the very elect of God—and He will love them and tend to them and even give Himself for them. So it is entirely fitting for these shepherds to have this announcement made to them.

The fear felt by the shepherds was only momentary and what they heard from the angel immediately vanquished any dread. “Do not be afraid,” he said, and he had good reason to make that statement! The Savior, the Son of David, had been born in the city of David, just a short distance away! They must have been instantly overwhelmed with various impulses—confusion, curiosity, hopefulness.

The shepherds, no doubt still dumbfounded, are then told how to find this Savior (v. 12) and the scene then changes as “there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’” (v. 13) The magnificence of this moment grows now as the announcing angel is joined by a host of others and together they praise the LORD. This must have been an astonishing sight—the night sky filled with angels singing to God.

This scene ends with the shepherds determining to go straight into Bethlehem to find this Christ-Child. And, just as they had been told, they found the Baby lying in a manger (v. 16). Naturally, as Luke tells us, the shepherds related their recent experience with the angels (v. 17). As they related this news, “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” (v. 18)

Luke specifically mentions Mary among those who listened to the shepherds’ report (v. 19). She heard these men state that her Baby was the Messiah, the Savior promised and anticipated. Here, we are told that she “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The idea in the Greek is not simple astonishment, but holy wonderment and, further, the notion is that Mary kept going over these elements in her mind.

Finally, the shepherds are on their way, “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.” (v. 20) And this is where Luke ends his report on the birth of the Savior. The peace promised has been declared.

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