The Hope of Christmas: A Meditation on Luke 2
The Hope of Christmas: A Christmas Meditation Luke 2
December 25, 2011
In the year 1809 . . . Napoleon was front page, but consider the children that were born: William Gladstone, Alfred Tennyson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln. . . The changed the world.
So we read in Luke 2 of a more important birth . . . Christmas is the event of the birth of the world’s true ruler and it brings light to the world and this light brings salvation, therefore we should have hope congregationally and personally.
1) There is a glorious ruler of the world. There is a great contrast in these verses.
Luke 2:1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
“Caesar Augustus was born Gaius Octavius. He was one of the triumvirate set up to rule the Roman world in 43 BC. In a series of military and political moves he gained sole control of the reins of power, and finally in 27 BC the Roman senate bestowed on him the title Augustus, acknowledging his supreme position. From this date is reckoned the reign of the emperor Caesar Augustus.” (WBC)
2) There is a more glorious ruler born in the world. Christ’s birth is very simple. “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 2:7 And she gave birth...” Though we learn from the rest of Christ’s ministry of His true glory, no one at the time of His birth would have equated Jesus with Caesar Augustus, who was the Imperial ruler of the world. Yet today, few could name Augustus’ actual name (Octavius) but billions of people worship Jesus, the name above every name.
3) There is a message of that glory announced in the world.
Luke 2:7–14 - 2:8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 2:11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 2:12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 2:13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
"While they were there" (en to einai, literally “in the living” Lk. 2:6) means that they arrived and were somewhat settled, e.g., they were living there. Word Commentary says, "Luke does not say how long in advance of Jesus’ birth Joseph left for Bethlehem (v.4) nor why he took Mary with him. It is possible that he used the emperor’s order as a means of removing Mary from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village."
I hate to break the image of the Hallmark Christmas where Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem just in time to give birth . . . but: The word for "Inn" is kataluma. It is used here and two other times in the NT. Is this a "motel"? No. "Luke 22:11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room [kataluma], where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’" The other use is a parallel text (Mark 14:14). It is a guest room or dining room. Luke (the same writer) when describing "Motel 6" in the Good Samaritan story uses "pandocheion" for an Inn where the stranger is dropped off and vs 35 is the key, it is where the Innkeeper is paid.
People need hope to live. God’s way of working to undo what is wrong in the world is perfectly illustrated in Luke 2. Just when power and oppressive people sit on thrones, just then a defenseless baby is born that will subvert those in power. Rome was historically subverted. Whoever rules makes the rules and Jesus now rules.
The Shepherds who were the first to see the glory, tended lambs who were likely being raised for temple sacrifice. Then Jesus was laid in a lamb’s manger. Jesus is bread, he is food and he is the Lamb of God.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more