December 16, 2018


"Basics of the Christmas Story" (Part 2) - Luke 2:1-7

  - last Sunday we started talking about some of the basics of the Christmas story, in light of the fact that there are some people around who don't know about the birth of Jesus & the circumstances surrounding that event - like the ones we mentioned who didn't know what a nativity scene was; so as a reminder to ourselves & as a refresher to assist us in sharing the story of Christmas with others, we're looking at some of the basics of the nativity; last Sunday we talked about the ones at the center of the nativity scene - Mary, Joseph, & baby Jesus - & a little about their backstory; we saw how this birth came about - that it was truly a miracle birth - & what the virgin birth indicates about who Jesus is & also showing what God can do, & the fact that He can still do miracles today & in our lives; today we're going to look more at the setting of that nativity scene; let's begin by reading what to many of us is the most familiar scripture associated with Christmas, but still keep in mind, there are those around for whom this isn't familiar

- Luke 2:1-7 (read); so the government had ordered a census to be taken; & instead of workers coming around to your home to get the required information from you, you had to go to whatever was considered your hometown in order to be registered or officially counted; so although Joseph & Mary were living in Nazareth, they had to travel to Bethlehem; Joseph was part of the family of David & this was where David's descendants were required to check in & fill out their paperwork; but Mary was getting ready to add one more number to the census count; she was ready to give birth to this miracle baby at any time; & sure enough while they were there in Bethlehem, the time came; she gave birth to Jesus

- but the nativity scene doesn't show Jesus lying in a nice cradle, with one of those mobiles hanging over it with cute cartoon characters & playing lullabies; he's not lying there wrapped up in a warm blanket with pictures of teddy bears all over it; the setting isn't the new parent's suite at the Bethlehem hospital nor is it a nice, comfy room at the Bethlehem Holiday Inn; the nativity shows this special baby - this unique child as we talked about last Sunday - God coming in the flesh - it shows this One who was coming to save the world being laid in a feeding trough - a manger - with hay all around it; it's set not in a warm, comfortable hotel room, but rather in what we would call a stable; some think it may have been more of a cave that was used to house the animals rather than some kind of wooden structure; but when we build nativity scenes, we usually can't build caves - so we put together some kind of wooden enclosure to represent this concept of a stable; Jesus was born out in the barn - out in the place where the horses & camels & donkeys were parked - in the hotel's parking garage; but instead of motorized mustangs, there may have been live ones there

- so the nativity takes place in a stable; many of us have become accustomed to that truth, but to others who aren't as familiar with the story, that would seen like a strange place for this special child to be born; this setting reminds us of a couple of things - one, the humility of Christ - & two, the common response to His coming

- first of all, the setting of a stable shows us right from the start of His life that Jesus was not going to be the kind of King & Savior which many were expecting; the Son of God wasn't born at the altar in the temple with a group of priests worshiping Him; the King of the world was not born in a palace on a royal bed with servants taking care of His every little need; the one looked upon to be the hero - the one coming to save God's people - wasn't born in a military camp among the soldiers He would lead into battle or in the halls of the Justice League among all the great superheroes; He was born in a stable likely surrounded by a distinguished audience of horses, camels, donkeys, sheep, & other animals who in spite of what legends suggest, probably didn't pay much attention to Him

- Jesus' humble beginnings are a foretaste of the kind of person He would be & the type of King & Savior He would become; instead of raising a huge army, He was going to call a small group of fishermen, & tax collectors, & other such non-notable people to be His close associates; instead of seeking to rise in power to rule as a king, He chooses to humble Himself & serve others; instead of making friends with the religious leaders & being a good, cooperative rabbi who would win favor with those in charge & climb the ladder to become a high-ranking priest or Pharisee or other religious leader, He took on the religious establishment - condemned the leaders - & put Himself in the position of being considered a heretic or blasphemer by the highest religious authorities; instead of exalting himself & promoting Himself, He was willing to make Himself the scapegoat & suffer & give His life for the sake of others

- the stable was the first sign of the humility that would characterize Jesus life; it was the first of many such symbols; the stable - the water basin in which He washed the disciples feet - the crown of thorns He wore - & of course, the cross on which He died

- the stable reminds us why Jesus came; He didn't come to be served but to serve; He came to give His life a ransom for many; He didn't come to deliver His people from the enemy of Rome, but to conquer the greater enemy of our souls - the devil; He came to save His people from their sins

- last week we talked about how the virgin birth testified to Jesus being God; the stable reminds us that He, although God, humbled Himself to become a man; as it says in Philippians 2:5 - "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation" (& the stable is the beginning of that) "taking the form of a bondservant, & coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, & became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross"; the stable is the first step toward the cross for Christ; it shows where He's heading; so when you see the nativity scene, let the stable remind you of what's coming - it points ahead to the cross & what Jesus did for us there

- but secondly, the stable reminds us of the common response to Christ; why were they in the stable? Was it Joseph's attempt to save a little money & not pay for an expensive room? Was it because they liked animals or didn't want to leave their donkey in a strange place? Was it due to the fact that they were country folk & weren't comfortable staying in an inn? No - they were out in the stable because there was no room for them in the inn; many other of David's descendants had traveled to Bethlehem too for this census; it was a busy time there; all the hotels were filled; there was no room for Jesus; right from the start this world had no room for Jesus

- & that was a foreshadowing too of what was to come, wasn't it? no room for Jesus; many of the religious leaders wouldn't have room for this teacher who lacked formal religious training - this teacher who ignored some of their laws about the Sabbath & ceremonial cleansings - this man who dared to equate Himself with God; many of the crowd made room for Jesus for a while - as long as they could get something from Him - some free food - a healing of a sickness - or a word of encouragement & hope; but when Jesus started talking about the cost of following Him - how His followers would need to deny themselves, take up their cross, & love Him more than their own family & friends - when He told them about the difficulties & persecution they would face - many of them no longer found room in their lives for Jesus

- John put it this way - "He came to His own, & His own did not receive Him"; the Jewish people specifically & the world in general had no room for Jesus; they shut the door of the hotel of their heart on Him & sent Him out to the stable

- this world hasn't changed much in that respect; there's still not much room for Jesus; there's room for Santa, & Kwanza & Hanukkah & a winter holiday & snowmen & family gatherings & gingerbread houses & gift giving - but not much room for Jesus & that nativity scene

- there's room for a Jesus who loves everybody & doesn't condemn people, but accepts them for who they are - a Jesus who walks right along side hand-in-hand with Muhammad & Buddha & all the other gods of the world - a Jesus who is politically correct & doesn't use hate speech & doesn't bully anybody & certainly wouldn't send anyone to a place like hell; there's room for a cute little baby in a manger

- but there's no room for the Jesus who said "I am the way - no one comes to the Father except thru Me"; there's no room for the Jesus who affirmed that marriage as God intended it from the beginning was between one man & one woman; there's no room for the Jesus who spoke often about hell & judgment; there's no room for a Jesus who talked about truth & right & wrong (or holiness & sin); the world makes room for the Jesus who told the woman caught in adultery "neither do I condemn you" (they rejoice in Him & welcome Him into their hotels) - but they have no room for the Jesus who then added "Go & sin no more" (they kick Him out the door & into the stable)

- & a lot of people don't have room for Jesus for another reason today; maybe they don't get into the theology & debates about moral issues; maybe they don't have a problem with what they know about Jesus; but like that Bethlehem Inn, their lives are so filled up with other things, they don't have any room left for Jesus; they choose to fill their lives with all these other things & refuse to make any room for the most important person to every come knocking on their door; they tell Him, "Sorry, no room for you here" - "I'd have to evict one of my other residents to make room for you, Jesus, & I'm not willing to do that; I'd have to kick out my TV show or my hobby or my ballgame or my computer or my phone; or I'd have to squeeze something into a smaller room to make space for you - my work that occupies the top floor of my life - my family that means so much to me - the room with my safe & all my valuable possessions - I'd have to relegate those to a lesser position in my life in order to bring you in & I'm not willing to put You first like that; maybe there's room out in the stable - You can stay out there; I just don't have a place for you in my inn; my life is too crowded as it is"

- maybe you've been in restaurants or other businesses that displayed some pictures of celebrities who had dined there or done business there; they like to show off those pictures as a way of promoting their place of business; it may include actors & actresses, singers, professional athletes, & even government leaders; VIPs - very important people have eaten there or made use of their services

- maybe the inn at Bethlehem had a wall of such pictures - maybe princes & kings & others had stayed there; but on this occasion the innkeeper turned away the most important person of all

- nothing or no one that occupies room in your life is more important than Jesus; His presence in your life is more vital than that of anything or anyone else; you can have a wall lined with all kinds of impressive pictures - a nice-paying job - a loving family - all kinds of things that might make you feel good & evoke admiration from others; but whatever may be taking up space that hinders there from being room for Jesus needs to be evicted or relegated to a lower floor in your life; nothing is more important than to make room in your life for Jesus; & not just any room - not just a corner in the basement or a hall closet; He gets the presidential suite; we need to let Him in & let Him be Lord over our lives

- the humble setting of the nativity scene reminds us that we need to make room for Jesus; are you making room for Him today? don't turn Him away, like so many have done & are still doing today; welcome Him in as your most treasured guest