The Birth of Christ
Woodlawn Baptist Church
December 4, 2005
This month more than a billion people will celebrate Christmas. Amid candlelight, carols and the smells of cedar and incense, the old story will unfold again: Gabriel’s visitations, the journey to Bethlehem, the arrival of the baby in a stable, the glorious announcement to the shepherds in the night, the star in the East, the mission of the Magi. The story is familiar, and in a world of great religious diversity where there is great doubt and disbelief about all things biblical, it is not doubt or disbelief that you and I who have gathered here must typically guard against. The danger we face each year is simply familiarity: knowing the story all too well, so well in fact that we miss its wonder.
Mark Twain said that familiarity breeds contempt. In the beginning we coveted the presence of the Lord, but today perhaps we take it for granted. In the beginning we were awed by Him, but today perhaps we are not so amazed. His visits become more routine, more ordinary, more commonplace. The songs we sing become a habit. The Bible we read becomes dry and old. The testimonies of our brothers and sisters do not move us because we have seen and heard it all before, and the birth of Christ? The wonder is gone.
Five hundred years ago Martin Luther said that the mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. That God who was fully divine took upon himself a human body to live among us is certainly beyond me, but in reading the Bible account I can see that His doing so was absolutely necessary for our redemption. This morning I want us to revisit Luke 2:1-21, then I want to show you that the birth of Christ resulted in three things.
If you look at the text you see in the first few verses that throughout the Roman Empire people were commanded to return to their ancestral homes to register for the census. Joseph, who was a descendant of King David, took his fiancée, who was pregnant and near delivery, and made the long journey back to Bethlehem. It is evident that as thousands of people were traveling for the same reason there was no room for them when they arrived. When I think about the scene I remember the news showing the lines of cars coming out of Houston before hurricane Rita hit. Thousands of people were moving along, driving, walking, and sleeping on the side of the road. People everywhere told stories about how there was no room for them when they looked for a hotel. After a week of walking and riding, Joseph and Mary experienced the same thing. Having been turned into a stable, Mary gave birth to Jesus, wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger in verse 7.
While this was going on, the angels appeared to the shepherds and told them the good news. It was then that they broke out in song giving glory to God. They told the shepherds that the Savior had been born. They told the men where He was and what to look for when they got to town. When they were gone, the shepherds went into Bethlehem to see for themselves what the angels had said. For hundreds of years this event had been foretold, and now it was taking place before their very eyes. They told everyone what they saw, spreading the wonder concerning the news of a Savior. Verse 18 says that “all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” On the eighth day Mary and Joseph circumcised the boy, and following the Lord’s instructions they named the baby Jesus.