Summary: Today we move to an unnamed mystery man. We established that the first verses in Matthew’s gospel are perhaps the most neglected in the New Testament; and this morning we’re going to look at one of the most widely known sections of Scripture.
Three years ago I began a message with a Christmas Quiz. I recently came across some additional questions to test our knowledge of the Nativity.
1. Jesus was born in what town?
2. Why didn’t Joseph and Mary stay at the inn?
a. It was too expensive
b. There was no inn
c. There was no room
d. None of the above
3. How did Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem?
b. Mary rode a donkey and Joseph walked
d. Who knows?
4. After being born, Jesus was placed in a:
c. Pile of hay
d. On the back of a donkey
5. A manger is a:
b. Feeding trough
c. Wooden table
6. Which animals does the Bible say were housed in the stable?
a. Cows, donkeys, sheep
b. Lions, tigers and bears
c. Goats, sheep and cows
d. The Bible doesn’t say.
7. Who told Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem?
a. An angel
b. Caesar Augustus.
d. No one told them to go.
8. What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?
a. “I have a stable out back.”
b. “Come back after the holidays.”
c. “There’s no room in the inn.”
d. Both a and c
e. None of the above
(Answers: 1-C; 2-C; 3-D; 4-B; 5-B; 6-D; 7-B; 8-E)
How’d you do? Anyone have a perfect score? It’s interesting how the traditions and tales concerning Christmas are often not correct. Christmas cards and even Christmas carols can reinforce a kind of sloppy seasonal sentimentality, in which “Merry Christmas” becomes “Happy Holidays.” I came across a brand new word this week in an article I read in the Chicago Sun Times (12/10/04). I’m not sure if it’s much better than “Season’s Greetings” or not: “Chrismahanukwanzakah.” Weekly magazines like Newsweek run cover stories on Christmas, but seldom get things right either. Although the magazine did report in a poll that 93% of Americans believe that Jesus really lived and almost 80% believe in the Virgin Birth (12/13/04, www.msnbc.msn.com).
Last Sunday we looked at a list of over 40 names from Jesus’ Forgotten Family Tree to see that God uses the faithful, those who are failures, and those who feel forgotten. Today we move to an unnamed mystery man. We established that the first verses in Matthew’s gospel are perhaps the most neglected in the New Testament; and this morning we’re going to look at one of the most widely known sections of Scripture.
While this is such a familiar story for many of us; it’s my prayer that we will linger long enough to allow this simple and straightforward account to impact us like never before. Please turn in your copy of the Scriptures to Luke 2:1-7. By the way, if you’re still looking for a Christmas present to give this year, why not give someone a Bible? If you don’t have a Bible, put it at the top of your list. And then, why not start bringing it with you each week to church? That would be a great gift to give to God that will benefit you greatly. More and more I’ve been convicted of the importance of each of you following along in your own Bibles during the preaching time. We’ll continue to put some helpful notes up on the screen but I don’t ever want this to become a substitute for your own study of the Scriptures. Let’s stand in honor of God’s Word as I read:
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Let’s make some preliminary observations.
1. God used pagan rulers to get Jesus to Bethlehem. It was said that when Caesar started his reign that Rome was built out of bricks; when he ended everything was made out of marble. In order for Rome to know how much money they could collect, they needed people to register. The government learns a lot about its people through taking a census. As a result of our last national count, our government now knows that Americans consume almost 31 pounds of cheese a year (that’s good for Wisconsin); and that on average, drivers put on almost 22,000 miles in 2001 (“The Pantagraph,” 12/9/04). In order to register for the census, since Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem, he had to make a long trip of 90 miles. This trip took about five days from the northern town of Nazareth.