1In 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.
Most of us have heard this story since we were little, and it may have become so familiar that it is boring. Yeah… yeah… yeah … blah… blah… blah. Can we just get on with opening all the presents?!?
One way for scripture to become more alive to us is to picture ourselves in the Bible story. What would it look like to be there? How would I have felt? What would I have thought? Which character would I be in the story? So, let’s do that with the Christmas story.
Cast of Characters
Mary – Mary was just an ordinary girl, doing ordinary things … like chores. But God saw her, and knew her heart. God called to her to a special task … to bear His Son … even though that was not humanly possible, let alone understandable. How did she react? She believed God and wanted to obey Him. Her life would never be the same. People would talk… and not nicely. And now, more consequences to her choice … she would give birth … away from family … in an unfamiliar place. But God was watching over them … she saw that. Verse 19 says she “treasured” these things in her heart. Many of us keep things in our hearts that aren’t treasures … like bitterness and unforgiveness. But Mary “treasured” God’s promises, and what He was doing … every part of this journey … the shepherds, the wise men, her baby boy … the care of her husband. She knew it all was part of what God was doing in her and with her … so it all became part of the “treasure.”
Would I have believed God and submitted to His will, even though it seemed impossible to me? Would I risk what others … especially my family and friends … thought of me? Am I willing to trust and follow God … even under difficult situations? Would I be scared? Will I “treasure” what God is doing, even when I don’t see the big picture? That takes faith and trust.
Joseph – Joseph had trouble believing everything when Mary first told him about the promised child. Had his betrothed been unfaithful to him? Was she losing her marbles? He was assured by an angel in a dream that Mary’s story was indeed true, but that opened up lots more questions? People would think Jesus was his child … and therefore that he and Mary had had sex before the wedding. Was he willing to have people talk about him and his new bride? And was he up for the job of caring for and protecting God’s Son? And why wouldn’t God at least provide a decent place for His Son to be born?!?
Will I trust God to empower me to do what He asks … even when I feel very inadequate?
The Shepherds – Talk about a boring job! They were quietly watching the sheep at night … not much to do except watch out for thieves and wolves. Then all heaven broke loose! Bright light! Angels! Singing Angels! Luke tells us they were terrified! The angels told them the long-awaited Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. Then they were excited! They went to see if what they had been told was true … and they went to tell others.
Are we excited about what God is doing? Do we tell others of His blessings … of His goodness? Do we care enough to investigate? Do we want to know the truth?
The inhabitants of Bethlehem – Most of these people had no idea what God was doing … or that He was doing anything! Some of them heard the shepherds’ story … and they were amazed.
Are we willing to listen to those who are excited about what God is doing? Do we even care?
The Innkeeper – Business was booming! The mandated census was bringing lots of people to town that needed a place to spend the night. His NO VACANCY sign would have been flashing … if he’d had one. When Joseph and Mary inquired of him, it is understandable that he didn’t have a room for them. It wasn’t his fault that everyone got there earlier. And besides, he didn’t know she was about to deliver the Son of God. If he’d known, maybe he would have saved a room. But, in the end, he had no room for Jesus.
Do I have room for Jesus? He no longer needs a room in your house… but He wants room in your heart. Are you so busy … with work, kids, sports, whatever … that you just cannot squeeze in one more thing? In our hectic, everyday life … even without having to travel for a census … we just don’t have time … we don’t have room.
But what are we missing … who are we missing? If the President of the United States said he wanted to visit… we’d find time and space. If a football star from your favorite team called – I say “your favorite team” because I just don’t care about football – you’d make time … and maybe even invite your friends over to meet him.
Time has been called “the great equalizer.” Everyone … rich or poor … old or young … has 268 hours per week. We choose what and who we want to spend time on. We choose where to focus our attention.
During this Christmas season, choose to make room for Jesus in your heart and in your life. He helps bring the rest of life into focus. He helps us choose what to keep and what to throw out. He brings peace, joy (much better than just happiness), hope, purpose and healing. He will chase out fear, loneliness, despair, anger and hurt … if you let Him.
I find myself in all of these characters, at one time or another. I have to trust God to use me, even when I cannot see how that will work. Am I up to the task? (Not without God’s help, I’m not!) Do I complain about what God is doing … or not doing … or do I trust and “treasure” what is happening? And, most often, I fail to make room for Him … fighting busy-ness and distractions. Sometimes I get to the end of my day and remember that I “forgot” to spend time with Him that day. It is especially tough at Christmas… but it’s getting better every year.
Thank you, Lord,
For leaving heaven and coming down here…
To be one of us… to live like us.
I don’t want to minimize that in any way.
You came as a baby, but You aren’t a baby anymore.
You are Lord of all creation … You are King of Kings.
And You want a relationship with me?!?
Wow! Almost unbelievable!
Lord, I choose to make room in my heart
… in my life … for You.
Shine Your Light so we can get rid of the junk.
Make me new. Make me whole.
Help me to prioritize my “treasures”… with You FIRST.
Thank You for never giving up on me … or on us.
He was the First Christmas Gift…
and He’s still the Best Christmas Gift you will ever receive!