Summary: Part 1 in a 4 part Christmas series
(Read text: vss 1-11)
This passage from the second chapter of Luke is one of the most familiar passages in all of scripture; even among the unchurched. We seldom hear these verses read other than during the Christmas season, and even Christians probably seldom see them except when they are going through a planned yearly read through the Bible; but this passage is so widely read just during the Christmas season, - in church programs and sermons - special newspaper sections - even on some television programs - that people from every walk of life, Christian or non-Christian are very familiar with this chapter’s cadence and its basic message.
To get a full understanding and feeling for the significance of the events on the night of Christ’s birth though, we have to take a little trip back in time.
Mankind has always looked for the coming of a Redeemer, even since long before there was a Jewish nation. In Genesis 3:15 God promised Adam and Eve that through the seed of the woman, a Savior would come to crush the serpent’s head and save men from sin. From that moment on, the one and only distinction between men, in God’s eyes, has been that they believe that promise and live accordingly, or they do not believe it, and (unfortunately) live accordingly.
At first we only get hints of men’s faith in a specific promise. Abel’s offering of a blood sacrifice over Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice without blood, is one of them.
As the accounts in Genesis unfold, we see other indications that men of God continued to believe in that promise given in the Garden, and we know by these things that the things God said to the first couple in Eden had been carefully preserved and passed down from generation to generation.
When the time finally came for God to repeat His promise, it was to Abraham, who was told that through his descendants all the nations would be blessed.
Abraham understood this promise to mean that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age, and that through that son, God would eventually bring His promised Redeemer.
It may seem like a vague message to us, but given a little contemplation we can understand, as Abraham did, that the only way all the nations of the earth could be blessed through one man’s son, is if One was going to come through that son whose very existence would have a significant impact on all men, everywhere. That could only be the promised Messiah, because the only three things that all men everywhere have in common, are a common ancestor (Adam) and a common infirmity (sin) and a common destiny (death).
Only the Lord’s promised Anointed One could address all three of these issues in a significant way.
Well, Abraham received the sign of circumcision and thus became the first Jew. Through him came Isaac, and then Jacob (Whose name was later changed to Israel), and to these people the promises concerning the coming Redeemer were much more pointed and specific.
Through Israel’s prophets God revealed the facts of His virgin birth (Isaiah), Bethlehem as His birthplace (Micah), His priesthood (Psalms), rejection by His people (Isaiah), triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9), betrayal, and more specifically, betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (See Matthew 27:3-10 and Zechariah 11:12,13).
The prophets tell of the false witnesses at His trials and His silence before those false witnesses, His suffering, crucifixion, piercing (Zech. 12), mocking, His prayer for His enemies from the cross, the soldiers casting lots for His robe, being buried with the rich, His resurrection, ascension and second coming; and this is not a complete listing!
Down through history, from the confrontation in the garden of Eden, to the time God shut Malachi’s mouth, in every generation in verbal declaration and acts of righteousness, we see Christ proclaimed, always in understandable terms. God wasn’t dropping hints. He was providing the only means of escape from a devil’s Hell, and He utilized every method, every opportunity to say “And those who diligently seek Me, will find Me.”
So for all these generations, God’s chosen people, the Jews, and God-fearers from every nation, had looked for the fulfillment of this promise. The Jews had their scriptures which they searched diligently, and Jew and believing Gentile alike had the common resource of prayer; which they used often, to ask, “How long Lord?” “When will the Redeemer come?” For the most part they misunderstood what the mission of that Redeemer would be, and they did not understand the words of the prophets, but still they looked for the Messiah.
The Bible says that in the ‘fullness of time’ God sent His Son, born of a woman. Gabriel had visited Mary and then Joseph, and both had received the news and had acted in obedience to the Word of God; and now, the night of the Savior’s birth had finally come.