Birth of the SaviorLuke 2:1-20Theme: Paradoxes of the promise.This week’s lessons teach us that the good news of the Gospel is for everyone.
LessonJesus Christ comes as the Son of God, the one who by his very presence exposes and condemns our sin. He comes as the Savior who says, “Come unto me that you might have life.” He says, “I am the way to the Father.” And people don’t want that message today any more than they wanted that message then. We get sentimental at Christmas, and people are inclined to say, “Oh, yes, certainly we would receive the Christ,” but as a matter of fact they don’t, unless God by his grace first of all does a work in their hearts to open them to receive him.
I think the first great question of the story at this point is this: Do you have room for Jesus? Or is he and are his claims upon your life crowded out by other things? They can be crowded out by your own conception of yourself. You can say, “Well, I’m what I am and I want to do what I want to do.” Or he can be crowded out by our preoccupation with things. That is where our hearts are often found, so Jesus gets pushed aside.
Again I ask the question, is there room in your heart for Jesus? If Jesus is God’s great gift to humanity then you could never have anything greater in your life than Jesus. And really, the source of all blessing begins with receiving him. And yet, fools that we are, we try to keep him out. We keep him at arm’s length in order that we can go our own way.
I notice that if you do have room in your heart for Jesus, then the world is not going to have room for you. When I read this text, it does not say there was no room for him in the inn (meaning Jesus); rather, it says there was no room for them in the inn. In other words, they were with Jesus and so there was no room for Joseph and Mary either. If you draw close to Christ, if you become like him, then the same kind of rejection that Jesus experienced you will experience in some measure. You won’t quite fit in with the crowd.
You might be like Peter, standing by the fire of the high priest trying to pretend that he was one of the guys; yet he had been with Jesus for three years and they knew there was a difference. They said, “Surely, he’s one of them.” That is the way the world will sense it. If you really have opened your heart to Christ, you will experience something of the rejection that he experienced.
Nevertheless, it is really worth thinking about, because even if the world will have no room for you, Jesus will. He said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). A passage like this one about Peter simply confronts us with the kind of decision we have to face spiritually sooner or later. Either we are going to go God’s way and suffer whatever worldly consequences there may be, knowing that the blessing of God rests upon that decision, or we go the world’s way and we turn our back on the spiritual blessings.
It would be a wonderful thing if, at this Christmas, some who perhaps have been indecisive and have pondered these things but really don’t want to make a commitment to the Christ who is at the heart of the story, would say, “Well, enough of this double-mindedness, enough of this divided way of life. I’m going to go with Christ regardless of the consequences.” That would be the greatest decision you could ever make. It would be the beginning of the greatest adventure that you will ever have. That is the first thing that this chapter asks us to consider.
There is another paradox. It is the announcement of the birth of Christ to the shepherds. Why shepherds? I really don’t have an answer to that, except that they were insignificant. People looked down on them. Shepherds were very poorly regarded. They were poor, scruffy – we would perhaps call them street people. Only they were even worse than that. Shepherds were so poorly regarded that in Jewish law they couldn’t even give testimony in court, because everybody assumed that people like that would lie. There was nothing glorious about shepherds. Yet it was to the shepherds that the announcement was made. And by whom? By the angels, the heralds of heaven.
What must occur before Jesus can be received into anyone’s heart?
What are some of the things that can crowd Jesus out of our hearts?
Describe how shepherds were viewed back in Jesus’ time.
ReflectionIf you draw close to Christ, if you become like him, you will experience some of the same rejection he did. Are you willing for that?