Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Luke 2:5-6 (Holman) . . . to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
Human life, from womb to tomb, was ordained by God the Father, and sanctified by the Son. God came as a baby in a womb, thereby making the womb a holy place. Jesus became a newborn, making birth a sacred rite of passage.
Being a child, He consecrated childhood. By living as a teen, He made adolescence holy. He lived as an adult, sanctifying adulthood.
Jesus consecrated each stage of life. Every phase of human life, from birth to death, is sacred, because the Sacred One lived them all.
Luke 2:7a Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, . . .
He who threw stars and galaxies billions of miles into space became a baby 18 inches long. He was the firstborn of at least seven siblings (Matthew 12:46; 13:55-56; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19). The names of his sisters are unknown. His brothers were James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.
James and Jude wrote Bible books. James led the first council of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). It was said he had camel knees, having callused them from spending excessive amounts of time kneeling in prayer.
Luke 2:7b . . . and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth . . .
It wouldn’t have been right for the One who would die unclothed to have been wrapped in purple robes at His birth. He instead donned ordinary garb.
Newborns were usually wrapped in long strips. Tightly wrapping a child round and round matched for the newborn the sensation of the snugness of the womb. This birth custom would have been very familiar to the physician Luke.
Luke 2:7c . . . and laid Him in a feeding trough . . .
His was a lovely birth, a lonely birth. Everything pointed to obscurity, poverty, fending for themselves. No one took notice of their coming. The humble circumstances at His birth indicated His Kingdom would not be an earthly one.
He was the common man’s Savior, born in a stable, where anyone would be welcome. A barn is as approachable as it can be, no guards, lock, or social barrier.
No worries about proper etiquette, good table manners, or keeping the floor clean. No rules of decorum to follow here. Just come in, and make yourself at home, as the shepherds did.
When considering salvation, sinners often imagine themselves shut out. Not true. God came to throw open Heaven’s door. God hasn’t shut you out, don’t shut yourself out. As long as the Bible says whosoever will may come, come.
We know the city and circumstances of Jesus’ birth, but not the precise spot of the manger. The Church of the Nativity, which claims to mark the place, is the oldest church building in Palestine and maybe in the whole world. Inside are 16 centuries of ground hallowed by 50 generations of believers’ feet.
The church is deeply moving to visit, but also embarrassing. Unbelievers wearing machine guns keep watch over the flocks of believers within. Christian denominations jockey for position and argue over every proposed change.
My guess is, God didn’t mean for us to know the exact spot for sure. He knew we would tend to worship the site, not the Savior. If you don’t believe this, go visit places where people believe holy events occurred.
These locations often become a snare, an idol, as the brass serpent did (Numbers 21:5-9). To end the idolatrous worship of the brass serpent, Hezekiah finally had to break it to pieces (2 Kings 18:4).
No material form or place can adequately express God, who is spirit. We cannot concretely picture the real thing. In Florida I recently saw a statue of Jesus strapped down to keep it from being blown away. The statue was beautiful, but couldn’t picture the omnipotence of God. He cannot be conceptualized.
God wants heart worship, not place worship. Worshiping Him in spirit is what matters because His spiritual presence alone can make a difference in our lives. After Jesus left the stable, it was merely a stable again. Only His presence had made it special. When Christ departed, it reverted to being ordinary.
Wherever Jesus is removed from prominence, the result is loss. Without Jesus, civilizations do not make forward progress spiritually. They regress. What was deemed holy becomes debased. The logic and reason of faith is replaced with superstitions.
Many in our culture want Christ’s ethic without the Christ, His standards of kindness without His laws. They deem Him a good role model, but a nuisance as Master.
Positive social progress can’t happen without Jesus. Without Christ, societies become less, not more, loving; ruder, not kinder. Without Him, women, children, the poor, and the sick suffer. The strong rise to the fore, the weak are sent to the rear. God has ordained that the betterment of society hinges not on merely knowing about Jesus, but on knowing Him.
Luke 2:7d . . . because there was no room for them at the inn.
(SHOW BETHLEHEM DVD)
No room. Few words hold a tighter, more tender, grip on Christian hearts. They stop us dead in our tracks. For our beloved Jesus, no room? Yes, no room!
In all His tenure here, Jesus never was fully at home. He was always passing through. He belonged to a different world.
People were so oblivious to Jesus’ greatness that He had to sneak into our world through a barn. In life we gave Him no home; in death no grave. Born in a borrowed stable, He had to be buried in a borrowed tomb.
We hear from the story of an inn with no room an echo, a parable ongoing for all the world at all times. We instinctively look around and whisper, “It’s still that way.”
How does this happen? The same way it did at the inn. People weren’t expecting Jesus. They did not recognize His importance when He came. People were not mindful of what God was doing.
Life is often this way for us. If we are not in prayer, not sensitive to the Lord’s moving, we may miss something special God has for us. God might be at work around us, yet we would miss it. God works in all events of life, great or small. Stay tuned in. Remain faithful in the private place.
Another reason there was no room in the inn was indifference. People probably weren’t malicious. They rather had other things on their mind. The world usually isn’t repulsed at Jesus. It simply has no room for Him.
On my flight last week from Atlanta to Charlotte, I spoke with a 25-year-old lady who grew up a Southern Baptist, but hadn’t been to church in years. I asked why. It was as if she had never considered the question. She tried to remember why, sifting quickly through memories. She said she went to college, left old friends, made new friends, got busy. Church simply fell off her radar screen.
The people at the inn weren’t being harsh. They were living their regular routines. They arrived at the hotel first. It just turned out that way.
Many still reject Jesus not through hostility, but through the ordinary drift of circumstances. Life, like the inn, gets full, filled with so many other things that Christ can’t find a place.
People rarely plan to be irreligious. It’s often not a conscious choice. It just happens. Too much noise. Too much clamor. Too much competition for our attention. Lives easily become preoccupied with pleasures, prizes, and pursuits.
This worldly saturation remains a danger after we’re saved. For some believers, the main cause of their sin is din, having too much going on to regularly be in their prayer closet alone with God.