Summary: The coming of Jesus to this world immediately began to change the lives of those around him.
The Wonder of Christmas
A ninety year old couple sat on the front porch one night. The old man was overcome with the romance of the evening and he said to his hard of hearing wife, “I’m proud of you.” “Huh,” she said. “I’m proud of you.” “I’m tired of you too,” she said. More often than not the case is that over time the more familiar we are with something the less fascination we have with it. We get tired of things very quickly. Things that once fascinated us, now bring little emotion. A young person gets a new CD and listens to it over and over again but eventually the CD gets old and sits on a shelf un-listened to. An adult gets a new car but after six months the newness has worn off and he wants a new one.
We have a saying that “familiarity breeds contempt.” But more often than not, “familiarity just breeds indifference.” And the more we become familiar with something the less fascination we have. The newness fades and we lose the wonder. And that happens often with us at Christmastime too. We have heard the Christmas story over and over and slowly the wonder of what occurred some 2,000 years ago diminishes. It fails to do much for us spiritually. The old, old story, has become just that the old, old story.
And so this morning I want us to study Luke chapter 2, which is the account of the birth of Jesus Christ. Hopefully by studying it again we will become reacquainted with the wonder and awe of the Christmas story. And what I want us to see is how the coming of Jesus to this world immediately began to change the lives of those around him. Jesus’ birth brought transformation. So open your Bibles, to Luke chapter 2 (Luke chapter 2) as we recount the wonder of that first Christmas. And first I want you to see the change that Jesus brought to the lives of Mary and Joseph.
Luke 2:1 reads, “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.” The reason Luke includes this information about these rulers is that he wants us to know that the events of the first Christmas were factual historical events. Luke wants us to know that these events really took place and that they are not fairy tales he invented. He wrote in Luke 1:3, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you.” These events Luke writes about in his gospel have been investigated, they are not cleverly invented stories. They happened in real time.
I think it is also interesting to note that those who were important at that time, Caesar Augustus and Quirinius are unimportant now. And that those who were insignificant are now the ones we remember. No one knows who Caesar Augustus is nowadays, but all of us know of the people of the Christmas story. I mean we name our children, Joseph and Mary and Zach. We name our dogs, Caesar, Nero. No one even uses the name Quirinius anymore. Chuck Swindoll says, “Caesar and Quirinius thought they were hot stuff but they were just passing figures on the pages of history.”
Verse 4, “So Joseph 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 Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:4-5) Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor had issued a census so that he could tax everyone in the Roman Empire. These censuses were usually given every fourteen years. And in order to register for the census everyone had to return to their ancestral home. It would be like me returning to Mason, OH my hometown. And so Joseph had to take his fiancée Mary some 80 miles from where he lived in Nazareth to Bethlehem which was the birth place of King David and Joseph was from David’s family line. Joseph had been born in Bethlehem and spent his entire childhood there before taking residence in Nazareth. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a notoriously rough three day trip by foot. William Barclay points out that the journey was quite primitive and that even though Mary probably rode upon a donkey, the roadway was particularly bumpy and not suitable for a young woman nine months pregnant.
Now understand that Mary and Joseph were not fully married at this time. They were betrothed. A betrothal was sort of like a binding engagement that lasted one year. The betrothal was a contract between the man and woman’s families and could not be broken except through a legal divorce. After the year of betrothal was up the couple went though a formal marriage ceremony and were allowed to live together and have sexual relations. Now verse 5 says that Mary was with child. Meaning that she was not pregnant through relations with Joseph but through the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit. God had worked a miracle and made a virgin conceive a child. Earlier in Luke chapter 1 we read that God sent the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary. Luke 1:28 tells us that the angel said to Mary, “Greetings Mary, (which is Ave Maria in the Latin). You are highly favored by God and He is with you. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.”