Summary: The coming of the promised King.
A ROYAL NATIVITY
When Jacob blessed his sons, he prophesied that the sceptre would not pass from Judah “UNTIL He comes whose right it is” (Genesis 49:10). Even the hireling prophet Balaam recognised that a king was still to arise out of the stock of Jacob, though not yet (Numbers 24:17). There may have been a long interregnum when the dynasty of David was carried away into captivity in Babylon, but the promise remained.
There had to be a fullness of time (Galatians 4:4-5). There was to be a right time both for the birth, and for the death of Jesus (Romans 5:6). Our times are in God’s hand (Psalm 31:15), and even mighty Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor, is but putty in the hands of the One who has always been working ALL things together for the good of His own people (Romans 8:28).
In fact Luke the evangelist is at pains to tell us who ruled where before getting on with his narrative (Luke 2:1-2). The writer does the same thing when he talks about the ministry of the forerunner (Luke 3:1-2). All these powerful potentates are subservient, whether they know it or not, to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Augustus’ decree that the entire world should be taxed seemed to illustrate just how much Judah was under the yoke of Rome. It seemed that the sceptre had been falling out of Judah’s hands for centuries. Yet the Jews still had sufficient self-determination three decades later to VOLUNTEER the final surrender of their sovereignty (John 19:15), rather than yield to their own promised Messiah.
It was this decree which brought Joseph and his espoused to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). This was the right place at the right time as the Virgin Mary was about to give birth to her firstborn son, Jesus (Luke 2:6-7), in fulfillment of another prophecy (Micah 5:2). The king of glory was not born in a palace, but in a stable because there was no room for Him at the inn.
A manger, a long trough for feeding horses or cattle was hardly the ideal place to lay a newborn child. Yet this was the measure of what God was doing when He thus manifested Himself in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16): the LORD of glory made Himself of no reputation, and humbled Himself (Philippians 2:6-8), in order to accomplish our salvation. Let us anew make room in our hearts for Him.
Communion: THE IN-BREAKING OF THE HOLY
Three times Luke mentions the manger: Luke 2:7; Luke 2:12; and Luke 2:16. Into this manger is placed, not animal feed, but “the bread of life” (John 6:33). This bread is not set there to feed the livestock, but to meet the spiritual needs of fallen mankind (John 6:35).
As we break the bread, let us celebrate the in-breaking of the holy. As we remember the birth of Jesus, let us not lose sight of the reason for His coming into the world: let us also recollect the vicarious death of our dear Saviour. Let us be fed by Him, along with the whole community of God’s people, that we all might live as His body in the world.
As we drink of the cup, let us buy of Him wine and milk, without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1). Let us come unto Jesus, who alone can satisfy our spiritual thirst (John 7:37). Let us come anew to Him, whose blood is sufficient for the cleansing of our sins.