1 At that time the Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
2 When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria.
3 Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own town.
4 Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David.
5 He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant,
6 and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby.
7 She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to
stay in the inn.
8 There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid,
10 but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people.
11 This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord!
12 And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”
Other readings: Isaiah 9:1-7; Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13; Titus 2:11-14
The story of Jesus’s birth is described in two scenes. In the first scene, verses 1-7, Luke explains how Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, in the south of Palestine, when Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, in the north.
Joseph is required to attend a census. For a descendant of King David that means returning to Bethlehem. It is here that Mary gives birth to Jesus. God’s promise that he would send the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is fulfilled (Isaiah 9:7). The place of Jesus’s birth also fulfils Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:2).
In scene two, verses 8-14, we hear how the news of Jesus’s birth reaches the outside world. Shepherds are the surprised recipients of the amazing news. God sends an angel to reveal the birth and real identity of this baby. The proof the angel gives the shepherds that this baby is God’s promised Saviour is that they will find him in Bethlehem, lying in – of all places – an animals’ feeding trough,
It’s almost as if the angels can’t contain their excitement at the birth of this child.
For then suddenly a great army of angels joins the first angel and they sing their
praise to God.
Our Scripture reading finishes here, but the story continues. The shepherds believe the news the angel tells them and go to Bethlehem to see for themselves. They find Jesus and tell Mary and Joseph everything the angel told them. They are the very first people to announce that Jesus is the long-awaited Saviour (verses 15-20).
Consider why God chose to reveal the birth of his son to shepherds, who in Jesus’s day had a very low social status and were often regarded as thieves. What clues do the circumstances of Jesus’s birth give us that he would be a very different Messiah, and usher in a different kingdom, to the one people were expecting?
Marvel that Jesus was prepared to leave the glory of heaven to be born as a baby in an animals’ stable.
Consider Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. What does this mean for you?
Why not echo the words of the angelic army on that very first Christmas Day: ‘‘Glory to God in the highest heaven’’? Repeat this great proclamation of praise several times.
Thank God for sending Jesus as your Saviour. Remember those who can still find no room for Jesus.
Spend a few minutes considering the four titles given to our Saviour in Isaiah 9:6: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Reflect too on the message of Titus 2:11-14, that by God’s grace we can live a life pleasing to God and look forward to the day when Jesus will return to earth again.