Several Ways Which We Should Approach The Birth Of Jesus
Over the year there have been a lot said about the story of the birth of Jesus. We all have heard the narratives of the birth of Jesus and the surrounding story that goes with the story. Most of the time we read the story from Luke just before we open all those Christmas packages. Then there are all those plays in church, in schools, colleges. Sermons will be preached by preachers this seasons. Of course I have preached sermons for years. Well I have always had come questions about the way we present the story and usually we missed the purpose of the whole narrative. So can we just learn about what really happen historically about the time period of Jesus. ? In the last year I started the series of sermon from the book of Luke. And in this series I covered a whole lot of narrative on this subject.
LOOKING AT SIX ASPECTS OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS IN A NEW LIGHT
Charles e Whisnant, Pastor/Teacher/Student
December 20 2015 Rivers of Joy Baptist Church, Minford, Ohio
3. Looking at the Character of the Shepherds .
It’s significant that the first witnesses to Jesus’s birth were shepherds (Luke 2:8–20). But is it accurate to portray them as the downtrodden and despised of society, so much so that they weren’t allowed to testify in legal proceedings? Does the fact that shepherds were the first to hear the good news highlight the need for sinners to hear the gospel?
Darrell Bock points out two problems with this understanding. First, the rabbinic evidence is late, dating to the fifth century. Second, the shepherd motif in the Bible is mostly positive (see Ps. 23; Luke 15:4; Mark 6:34; Matt. 18:12; John 10; Eph. 4:11; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25).
Of course, shepherds do represent those from a lower economic class in first-century Palestine. So it’s safe to say they picture the lowly and humble who respond to God’s message of salvation.
Preachers sometimes emphasize the irony of how the announcement first came to shepherds who were guarding lambs which would be slaughtered at Passover. This is striking, they say, because Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. But Luke doesn’t go out of his way to emphasize this connection. After all, every other shepherd in the vicinity of Jerusalem would’ve been tending lambs destined for Passover sacrifice.
What about the Shepherds in Bethlehem?
1. Shepherds Keeping Watch over Their Flocks (2:8)
2. The Glory of the Lord (2:9)
One minute the shepherds are talking quietly in the blackness of the winter sky. The next moment the hillside is ablaze with light and booming with the sound of an angel’s voice.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (2:9)
3. The Good News Angel (2:10-11)
The angel moves first to calm their fears…. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'” (2:10-
4. A Savior (2:11)
The angel terms this baby as a “savior,” Greek soter, “one who rescues, savior, deliverer, preserver.” In the prophecies about Jesus’ birth in Luke 1-3 we observe this theme several times:
“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (1:69)
5. Christ the Lord (2:11)
Our English word “Christ,” of course, comes from the Greek adjective christos, “anointed … fulfiller of Israelite expectation of a deliverer, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.” The Hebrew equivalent, mashiah, is transliterated in English as “messiah.” In the Hellenistic period of Judaism (after 331 BC), Jews came to use “messiah” to designate a future agent to be sent by God, usually to restore Israel’s independence and righteousness. However, there is some variation in the way messiah figures were pictured — not all the references are concerning a Davidic messiah. Hope for this coming messiah is not centered on religious concerns, primarily, but in some kind of triumph in the last days. The Jewish expectation alluded to in the New Testament seems to be an expectation of a divinely appointed royal deliverer who will purify the nation
6. At the Sign of a Manger (2:12)
How would the shepherds know that the angel’s message is true?
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (2:12)
“Sign” is the Greek noun semeion, “a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication.” 26 The sign consists of two elements. The baby is:
Wrapped in cloths, and Lying in a manger.
Baby” is the Greek noun brephos, “a very small child, baby, infant.” The term can even be used of an unborn child or fetus .27
The phrase “wrapped in swaddling clothes” (KJV) or “cloths” (NIV) translates the Greek verb sparganoo, “to wrap in pieces of cloth used for swaddling infants, wrap up in cloths.” 28 These were “strips of cloth like bandages, wrapped around young infants to keep their limbs straight”. 29 There is nothing unique about being wrapped thus. While an infant wrapped in swaddling cloths would be a newborn, there were perhaps several newborns in Bethlehem wrapped up in this manner that evening.
However, the second sign was that the newborn would be found in a manger — that was unique! The Greek noun is phatne, “manger, crib, feeding-trough.” 30 A manager would indicate the location in some kind of stable — a Second Century legend indicates that this was in a cave. 31
7. Glory to God in the Highest (2:13-14)
After the angel’s startling declaration, the heavens reveal a huge crowd of angelic beings:
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,’Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'” (2:13-14)
The crowd is described with two phrases: (1) “great company” or “multitude” (Greek plethos, “crowd, throng, host, assembly” 32 and (2) “heavenly host.” “Host” is the Greek noun strateia, a military term that means “army.” God’s heavenly army is mentioned several times in scripture (Joshua 5:14; 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 34:7; 103:21; 148:2).
This heavenly army is praising God. The Greek verb here and in verse 20 is aineo, “to praise,” with the root idea of “express approval.” 34 It may have been a heavenly choir as in popular Christmas lore, but the scripture doesn’t explicitly say that they are singing as the angels in Revelation (5:11-13; 15:3). Here they seem to be chanting in unison or speaking (Greek lego, “utter words, say.”).
8. The Shepherd’s Response (2:15-18)
Now the shepherds have a choice. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (2:15-18)
They hurry to Bethlehem. Where do you find a manger? In a stable, of course. So they check out the stables in this village and come across one with a baby sleeping in it. They meet the Family and share with them their story of the angelic visitation. Then they go and tell others what the angels have told them, just like the villagers did after the remarkable birth of John the Baptist (1:65). The NIV’s translation “spread the word” seems to miss the point, which is rendered well in the KJV and NRSV: “They made known what had been told them about this child.” The angel’s announcement of “a savior, Christ the Lord” is spread throughout the area, resulting in amazement in the hearers.
9. Mary Ponders the Shepherd’s Report (2:19)
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (2:19)
If you are Mary, you have much to think about. Luke uses two verbs to describe her thinking process:
“Treasured up” (NIV) or “kept all these things” (KJV) is the Greek verb suntereo, “to store information in one’s mind for careful consideration, hold or treasure up (in one’s memory).” 38 “Pondered” is the Greek verb sumballo (a compound word made from sun, “together” and ballo, “throw”), which means here, “to give careful thought to, consider, ponder,” something similar to our colloquial “get it all together.” 39
Consider what she has to make sense of: (1) her own announcement of the birth by Gabriel (1:26-38), (2) the story of Zechariah’s vision in the temple (1:5-25) which she heard when she visited Elizabeth, (3) Elizabeth’s prophecy (1:39-46), (4) her own prophetic praise (1:46-56), and (5) Zechariah’s prophecy when John the Baptist was born (1:57-79), which she may have been present to hear — a lot for a teenage girl to integrate into her own understanding and circumstances.
10. Joyful Shepherds (2:20)
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (2:20)
The final scene in this passage is the shepherds climbing back up the hill to where their flocks lie. The angel had told them what to expect and that’s just the way they found it. We leave them glorifying (Greek doxazo, the verb form of doxa discussed in 2:5 and 2:12) and praising (Greek aineo, discussed in 2:13) God.
4. Looking at those Wise Men or Magi in the Right Light.
The problem here is the magi weren’t “wise” in the sense of being sages. Nor were they kings. Nor were there necessarily three. The assumption is that there were three magi since there were three gifts, but this is simply speculation.
I see no reason to expunge “We Three Kings” from the list of Christmas carols we sing. But we will help people see the irony and wonder of the magi’s visit when we point out they were interested in dreams, astrology, magic, and future predictions. 9 Matthew’s readers would’ve viewed the magi negatively. 10
The History behind the Three Kings/Wise Men/Magi in the Christmas Story
After Jesus was born, Wise Men came to look for Him, probably from an area which is now in either Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia or the Yemen. Although they are often called the ‘Three Kings’, the Bible does not say how many there were, or that they were kings. One theory is that they might have been Kings of the Yemen, as during this time the Kings of Yemen were Jews. Three is only a guess because they brought with them three gifts: but however many there were of them, they probably would have had many more servants with them.
They were definitely men of learning. They were certainly men of great learning. The word Magi comes from the greek word ‘magos’ (where the english word ‘magic’ comes from). Magos itself comes from the old persian word ‘Magupati’. This was the title given to priests in a sect of the ancient persian religions such as Zoroastrianism. Today we’d called them astrologers. Back then astronomy and astrology were part of the same overall studies (and ‘science’) and went hand in hand with each other. The magi would have followed the patterns of the stars religiously. They would have also probably been very rich and held high esteem in their own society and by people who weren’t from their country or religion.