When Mary had her baby, the most special Baby of all time, she wrapped Him in soft, clean cloth she’d brought with her for the purpose. In those days, newborns were cleaned up, rubbed with salt, and then bound with their arms at their sides. Mary did for her Son what other mothers did for theirs.
Mary put her baby Son in a manger. She gave birth in a stable, since there wasn’t any room in the inn. (Much has been made of this story, and rightly so. We don’t know why the innkeeper didn’t make room in the inn for a very pregnant woman, possibly already in labor—or how many rooms were in the inn. Did the innkeeper know she needed privacy and thus choose the only private place for them? Were the rooms in the inn big, communal spaces? Did he truly have compassion—or did he turn them out? We’ll never know, but the fact is that the King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a stable.) Jesus made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). What’s more servant-like than being born in a stable? This wasn’t an accident! It was God’s choice for His Son.
The scene switches to the countryside, where there’s a group of shepherds watching their flock. It’s night, and something amazing happens: the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.
Their response? They were sore afraid. This glory of the Lord is that same glory that Moses saw. It made his face shine so that he needed a veil. The glory of the Lord was in the pillar of fire by night. The glory of the Lord is light, because God is Light. (Exodus 13:21-22; 34:33-35; 1 John 1:5)
The typical shepherd wasn’t exactly a wimp. Remember David? He killed a lion and a bear. He was so accurate and strong with his slingshot that the stone sunk into Goliath’s forehead. These were guys who protected their sheep from wild animals and robbers and all harm. They slept outside and braved the elements. The Bible says these shepherds were very afraid. (1 Samuel 17:34-37; 49-50)
The angel says, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
The shepherds were listening now. Can you imagine getting news from heaven that would cause joy for all people?
The angel continues, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
I have a feeling the shepherds understood this message. They were Jewish. They were waiting for the Messiah. They knew He was to be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) They understood that He would save them (Isaiah 19:20). The name Christ meant Messiah. They got it!
But, there was more: the angel was giving them directions, so they could go and see their Messiah! Can you imagine? They were the strangest directions they’d every heard! And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The Messiah, newly born, would be wrapped in swaddling clothes! In a manger! The King, their Messiah, in a manger! (They were used to stables and mangers.)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
What a scene!
What a message: I bring you good tidings of great joy. Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Good tidings of great joy . . . to you.
A Savior born this day . . . unto you.
The message of Christmas is for you. Just as the angel announced it to shepherds that night, the Word of God is announced to you, today. The Prince of Peace, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, Wonderful, Counselor was born—for you. (from Isaiah 9:6)
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(If not otherwise noted, all quoted material is from the Christmas story in Luke 2:7-14. Photo illustrations are from www.freebibleimages.org.)