Summary: Nothing surpasses the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation.
BEYOND HUMAN IMAGINATION
There are several reasons as to why the shepherds’ episode of the Christmas story could not have been a story of human imagination, or a man-made story.
1. If you or I were to make up a story about the birth of the long anticipated Messiah, it would have been out of the ordinary to mention the angel who proclaimed the good news of his birth. Throughout the entire O.T., angels appeared to proclaim judgment and divine wrath. That was why both, Mary and the shepherds were terrified at the appearance of an angel. That was also why the angel in both cases began with a word of comfort saying “FEAR NOT”. It never occurred to the human mind that an angel of the Lord would appear proclaiming “good news,” but that is precisely what took place. Contrary to common understanding, and opposite to what was expected, the angel brought good news of great joy.
2. If you or I were to make up a story about the birth of the long expected Messiah, King of Kings, we would not come up with a story, like the one in the Bible. This was a time when Rome knew no other king but Caesar. It was the law of the land not to proclaim or confess another Lord, beside the emperor. So who would, in his or her right mind, risk their lives by announcing the news of the birth of another Lord beside Caesar? The story had to be true because the risks of telling it as it was told, were too great.
3. If you or I were to make up a story about the birth of the God of heaven (his coming as a man) we would not give the story the context in which it was written i.e. the context of lowly shepherds seeing and hearing the heavenly hosts. Rather, we would replace the shepherds with priests and the teachers of the scriptures. We would also portray him as being born not in a manger but in a mansion.
This story had to be divine in origin, because if it originated in human minds, we would give it the best possible surroundings and circumstances.
I once heard a humorous story about the Pope who was on a visit to America for a period of time. On his last day of the visit, he was delayed due to meetings and was unable to break away to catch a flight.
Since he couldn’t depend on his Pope Mobile, he phoned for a limousine. When the limousine arrived, the driver was joyfully surprised that it was the Pope who called for him. The driver became nervous and was beside himself. He proceeded to drive very slowly. The Pope became nervous and told him to hurry up. It did not make a bit of difference. The driver went slower; he wanted to keep the Pope in his limousine as long as he could. The Pope could not be delayed any longer so he asked to drive the limo himself. The Pope sped off and reached the speed of 85 miles an hour. The policeman who stopped him was shocked when he discovered the famous personality behind the wheel. He frantically phoned his police chief and said, “Chief, I have stopped a very important figure for speeding. I don’t know what to do?”
--“What do you mean? Give him a speeding ticket!”
--“Sir, in all honesty, I can’t.”
--“Why can’t you? The law is the law. Who is it anyway that you stopped? Is it the mayor?”
--“Is it the governor?”
--“Is it a congressman?”
--“Is it the president?”
--“Well, then, who is it?!”
--“I don’t know sir! All I know is that the Pope is driving him to the airport.”
It would make sense to anyone that if the Pope is the driver then the passenger must be a divine visitor.
We would have given the story of Christ’s birth a similar twist if we were to write it ourselves.
We would have recorded that the Messiah was born at the home of the High Priest, or in the palace of Caesar.
But that is not the story as it was told, and it had to be God who was behind the details. God’s ways are not like our ways. He has always done things in the unexpected. His choice is often for the meek, the poor, the weak, and the rejected.
Luke intentionally and purposefully writes the names of the authorities in whose time Jesus, God incarnate was born. “IN THE DAYS OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS OF ROME, KING HEROD OF PALESTINE, AND QUIRINIOUS, THE GOVEROR OF SYRIA.”
By such names, Luke implies first that the incident of Messiah, God’s incarnate birth, was a historical fact. Second, that it took place in a time full of political tension. Such tension could have made an end to it quickly, had God not intervened. And third, that it happened during Rome’s oppression and persecution of the Jews.