Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 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. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ 15 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.’ 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 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. 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus are so basic and humble in origin that it’s hard to appreciate just who was born here. To the general observer, there was nothing flashy about this couple or birth. Jesus’ place of birth was determined in part by a call for a census that required citizens to go to their home of record to register. More than likely, the census was issued as a means for people to register for paying taxes.
The birth takes place in humble circumstances: from the town of Nazareth, to a young betrothed couple, to being born in a stable.
The Savior of the world took on a human appearance and entered the world without pomp and circumstance. Not only did He enter as a vulnerable baby, but in a stable. Even in scripture, there is a sense of humility as Luke treats the account with exceptional brevity. The King of Kings, the One who the prophets of old looked to, the One Malachi and John pointed to, entered the world in as mundane a way as possible. This babe, the agent of God, lived without pretense.
The Savior of the world entered and the angels proclaimed His arrival. Notice it was not to the people of influence, kings and rulers; it was to shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. It was to these average Joes that the announcement of “good news and great joy that will be to all people” was proclaimed.
The shepherds’ initial response was one of fear, but the angel calmed their fears and declared what God was doing. They decided to take a look and found it just as the angel said.
The Incarnation provides a study in the contrast between how God did it and how we might do it. If it were left to me, I’m sure I would have done it with a lot of fanfare! Over this week, we’ve seen that the angel told Mary her child would be a king of an everlasting kingdom and Zechariah prophesied that the Christ would be like the rising sun that would guide our feet in the way of peace. Yet, Christ was born in the simplest of towns…we’d refer to it as a “Podunk” town, a town most people would want to leave rather than come.
It is here in Luke that we see the emptying of Christ that Paul tells us about in Philippians 2:6-11. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The lesson found in the birth of Christ is a lesson in God’s faithfulness. In it, we see God’s heart and character revealed. Darrell Bock puts it best when he says, “The most humble birth for the most exalted figure ever born shows that the key values of life are found in the life itself, not in the accouterments that come with life.”
The humility that surrounds the birth narrative…think of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, the shepherds, and Christ Himself… issue a major challenge to our culture. We live in a world where self-promotion and “It’s all about me” mentality seem to be a way of life.
The birth of Christ shows us that greatness is not the size of a bank account or the position and title. No, without Christ, we all fall short of God’s righteousness. The only way we find any meaning is in a life lived for Him.
A life lived in and for Christ is a life of humility…a life faithfully serving Jesus.
Remember that the story of Jesus’s birth doesn’t end with Him in a manger. The testament of His birth is only the beginning of God’s work.
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.