“And She Gave Birth”
- Every December I find myself reading and re-reading Luke 2. I am so enthralled by this account of Jesus’ birth; I chastise myself for not somehow teaching this passage every Christmas. Beforej uming into this amazing account of Jesus birth, let me share another story by way of constrast:
- Illust: A woman was doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before.
Her arms were full of bulky packages when an elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.
As the doors closed, she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!"
A few others nodded theirs heads or grunted in agreement.
Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator, came a single voice that said: "Don't worry. They already crucified him." Homiletics(November/December 2006), Volume 18; submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentuc
KJV Luke 2:1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
- I enjoy getting caught up in the amazing details of the birth. It is so easy to do; and profitable. However, this morning I’d like to try to catch the big picture by calling out two high level perspectives I see in Luke’s writing here.
Luke, writing as an historian, pens an account marked by historical accuracy, theological preciseness, and divine providence 1-5
The account of Jesus birth is filled with details; seemingly ordinary, but upon further inspections, they are highly significant details. Such as…
The time marker is “those days” 1 What days?
The days of John the Baptist’s birth 1:5-25, 57-80.
The days of Mary’s pregnancy 1:26-38
The intersection of these two events 1:39-56
A Roman edit happened during this same period 1
This was an edit requiring everyone in the Roman Empire (all the “inhabited earth”), to register name, address, etc for taxation purposes. This included Judea.
The KJV properly translates “came about” (Ἐγένετο verb indicative aorist middle 3rd person singular from γίνομαι). All others omit for some reason. This however is not to be construed as “happened” as in accident! Rather, this is a divinely orchestrated “happening”.
The mention of “Caesar Augustus” as the Roman Emperor who issued this decree helps us more precisely pinpoint the year of Jesus birth.
Josephus indicates that a registration took place in AD 6-7 under Quirinius.
We know that registrations typically took place every 14 years; this the previous one was 8 BC
Jesus was born during Herod’s rule (Mat 2:1) who died 4 BC
Therefore Jesus was born between 8-4 BC; probably closer to 5 BC.
The mention of Quirinius demonstrates the accuracy of the Bible 2
Quirinius actually governed twice – in 6 AD as referred to by historians; but also in 8 BC as military governor.
The Bible will always be vindicated; be patient- if not by the spade of the archeologist now, then by the hand of God then!
The trek to Bethlehem was God’s manipulation of historical persons and governments in order to accomplish the divine plan 3-5a
The registration was the reason Joseph had to go to Bethlehem.
For some “odd” reason, the Romans employed the Jewish method of allowing people to register in one’s family city rather than one’s city of residence. This had not happened this way before.
This meant that Joseph went to Bethlehem rather than registering in Nazareth because Bethlehem was the seat of his “house” (Flatt) and “linage” (father Joseph).
And, it just so happened that Joseph had “married” Mary by now (cf Mat 1:24 with Lk 2:5 “engaged” - therefore this must refer to the betrothal process; they were legally bound to each other; therefore “engaged” is misleading – not other translations = “espoused”, “pledged”, “betrothed”) and thus she didn’t have to go to her family seat.
So what is the big deal about this? Well, the very word of God is at stake. ESV Micah 5:2But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.So, Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem.
Luke, writing as a physician, pens an account of natural human experiences, yet with divine uniqueness 5b-7
The storyline is, “Mary being pregnant” 5b-6
I like the KJV “being great with child”, however it is better just “being pregnant” 5b. “Pregnant” (ἔγκυος) either comes fromκοίτην ἔχω (an idiom, literally 'to have bed, Louw-Nida 23.50 or from ἐν and κύω), big with child Thayer 1558.
Here we have the perfect weaving of divine sovereignty with human choices. Joseph wanted to get Mary out of Nazareth in order to protect her from the gossip about her pregnancy. He probably intended to make Bethlehem their permanent home. Off they went.
So, Mary had to get to Bethlehem while she was at the end of her pregnancy!This meant that she had to make the 75-mile journey on foot or atop a donkey without giving birth prematurely!
The focus is on Mary’s impending delivery 6.
“…the days were completed” – this may be a huge understatement!In fact, some remark – sounds just like a man to over simplify!
At any rate, God’s time had arrived!
But the headline is “She gave birth” 7
Symbolically it is “brought forth” (KJV). That’s it! One medical term employed by Dr Luke to describe Jesus’ birth.
This was a completely natural birth.
We would expect Mary to dilate, her water to break, and labor pains. We should see blood, the umbilical cord, crying, and nursing. And everything else. In fact, Luke does mention the common practice of wrapping the new born in square cloths; placing diagonally and folding and tucking him in.
Ezekiel describes unfaithful Israel as not enjoying these common birth practices: NAU Ezekiel 16:4"As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.
In fact, Luke says that Mary had other children – “her first-born son”.
So, it is the conception that was miraculous, not the birth itself.
This was a natural birth; however, it was unusual. We learn that Mary’s child was born in a barn – a common animal shed. Not even the inn, which is the community shelter. And his cradle was the feeding trough!
What makes this so incredible is that this baby was the king of heaven; he was Immanuel, God with us; he was the long awaited Messiah, the Savoir of men.
No wonder, men of that day and of this day dismiss Jesus as the subject of a fascinating but irrelevant story.
Illust: During the 2008 presidential race, John McCain was asked byTimemagazine to share his "personal journey of faith." In his article McCain shared a powerful story of something that occurred while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam:
When I was a prisoner of war in Vietnam…my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night. One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.
A month or so later, on Christmas Day, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw that same guard approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me, not looking or smiling at me. Then he used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas, even in the darkness of a Vietnamese prison camp. John McCain, "A Light amid the Darkness," Timemagazine (8-18-08), p. 40; submitted by Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International
So, we are left to ....
- Marvel at the simplicity of the birth
- Wonder at the mystery of how this Babe born in a stable could actually be the King of the universe
- Be forever grateful that it is true
- Worship and adore the Babe because he is indeed God!