Due to the census, all the places for weary travelers to lodge were full. I wonder if the Inn Keeper, in a attempt to appease a desperate father-to-be and a obviously very pregnant woman, offered the barn as a way to pacify his own guilty conscious? Or was it just a after thought to get them away from the front door of the establishment? But God knew exactly where His Son was to be born…with no onlookers, no mid-wives…only lowly animals to serve as witnesses to the greatest event in history.
These three men who made the long journey from the East were not magicians, nor were they idolatry seekers. They were of noble birth, highly educated, wealthy, and influential. They had studied Hebrew Scripture and were familiar with the coming Messiah…so when this magnificent star arose in the sky, they had only to go back to Scripture to see that this star was the herald of the Messiah’s coming. Numbers 24:17 gave them this clue, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” And no amount of intellectual, logical, or analytical thinking could deter them then from following this star…for they believed.
I know your day is busy with lots of last-minute things to do before Christmas. But I have a present for you…so will you take a moment from your hectic schedule? Now I know this present isn’t very pretty, in fact it’s very battered looking with red stains on the outside. And to the world it would seem very old fashion and out of date. But this present could literally change your life for the better…with joy, peace, and wholeness. This gift is actually from God, and He, Himself, is offering it to you.. For this wonderful gift is His Son, Jesus Christ…and the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas tomorrow. So please receive this gift of hope, called the Good News…for Jesus came and died for your sins that you may have eternal life.
For a moment, put yourself out on that grassy mountainside next to a campfire as you take your turn watching for wild animals that might attack the flocks. Some of your fellow shepherds are dosing…some quietly talking….when suddenly this brilliant being stands in front of you, declaring the Messiah has come! And before you can even start to take this in… a great company of heavenly host appear. It would be like bottling every flash of lightning that’s ever happened…and then turning them all loose at the same time! And as if that wasn’t enough, these heavenly beings perform a song for you…saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” But as quickly as they appeared…they disappear…and you’re left to collect your wits and take a deep breath, all the while thinking about what you’ve just witnessed. Someone suggests traveling down to Bethlehem to see if this is true…and so off you go. And sure enough, just as the angel said, you find this tiny baby in a cattle stall… sleeping in a hay filled manger. So what do you do with all this good news? You have to tell others about what you saw and heard, right? That’s when common, uneducated men boldly started declaring the fulfillment of God’s Word…and when lowly shepherds told others about the coming of the Good Shepherd.
Imagine being that Innkeeper. The usually small, unassuming town of Bethlehem was being over-run by people coming in for the required census. His rooms were already taken by travelers, when this couple approached…the wife, clearly pregnant. The husband pleaded for a place to stay…telling the Innkeeper the time was imminent for his wife to deliver. The Innkeeper hurriedly pointed to the stable where the farm animals were kept and turned away…too preoccupied with everything he had to do. And if Mary and Joseph had told the Innkeeper who this baby was…do you think it would have made a difference? Or was the Innkeeper just too absorbed…too focused on the tasks needed to be done to realize the Messiah was coming? Today, are you so preoccupied with all the things you think need to get done that you’ve delegated Jesus outside to the barn? Are you like that Innkeeper…so focused on your “to do” list that you’re going to miss the Messiah’s birth?
Joseph was a quiet man…a devout Jew whose trade was as a carpenter and handyman in town. Joseph was also deeply in love with Mary, his betrothed, and looked forward to the day they would marry and start building a life together. But the rug was pulled out from underneath him when he learned Mary was pregnant…and not by him. So for moment, put yourself in his shoes. What thoughts and emotions would go through your mind and heart? Feelings of hurt, and betrayal would be surging through your being. Your mind would be racing with questions of “How could you do this to me? I love you.” Angry emotions would want to demand explanations from Mary for her apparent unfaithfulness. But even though Joseph had every right to make a public spectacle of Mary, (Deuteronomy 24:1) he chose to send her away quietly and spare her the indignities. But then God showed up…and all of Joseph’s questions were answered. For suddenly, it wasn’t just about him and his feelings…but about the eternal plan of the world receiving its Messiah.
The wise men came searching from afar. They had discovered that magnificent new star in the night sky and determined it was a sign…a sign of royalty. And so they began their journey of discovery. So what are you searching for today? Peace, truth, comfort, hope? There is only one place to find what you’re looking for, and it’s in the Name of Jesus Christ…for He’s what you’re ultimately looking for. Nothing in the world will ever compare to Jesus and the love He has for you. And just like the Magi, your quest can conclude by bowing down and worshipping the Messiah.
This prophecy of the coming Messiah was quoted 700 years later by the Chief Priests and Scribes when King Herod asked where the Christ was to be born. In John 7: 25-44 we see Jesus at the Feast of the Tabernacles proclaiming that He was indeed the Messiah, only to see the skeptics quoting this Scripture again…but then mistakenly assuming He had been born in His home town of Galilee rather than Bethlehem. But God never makes mistakes…His timing is always perfect…His promises always fulfilled. This long-awaited Savior of the world had indeed been born in Bethlehem for us all.
The shepherds had just experienced the greatest light show ever…more sensational than the biggest fireworks display…more glorious than anything the world had ever seen. Mixed with their awe and wonder was excitement…they had just been told about the coming Messiah. No wonder they all agreed to, “go to Bethlehem and see this thing,(Rhema) the Lord has told us about.” They had been given God’s Word…the Greek word is Rhema…and their enthusiasm was infectious. And after they had found the Christ child, their elation didn’t wane, for in Luke 2:17 it tells us that, ” When they had seen Him, they spread the Word ( Rhema) concerning what they had been told about this child.” These plain, ordinary men were the very first missionaries, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. They had no Theological degrees or advanced education… God’s Word had touched them and couldn’t contain their elation. They were compelled to tell others just as we should be. For the greatest story ever told is the one they spread…a Savior has been born to you; He is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Why did God choose to proclaim the coming Messiah to the shepherds? They were far from the politically elite…and at the other end of the spectrum from the powerful religious circle. So what did God see in that rag-tag group of blue-collar workers in that field outside of Bethlehem to warrant such a grand and glorious display to announce the coming of His Son? In a word, He saw us. He didn’t wish to address the political or religious bigwigs…He chose rather to tell the working class…people like you and me the good news of Jesus Christ. And this holds true today…the Lord Jesus Christ has come for you and me… common, ordinary people who need a Savior.