Theme: The King in a Manger
In these lessons on the birth of Christ we focus on its paradoxes, and how these show that Jesus’ coming is for all who will receive him.
Scripture: Luke 2
There are other paradoxes besides the two mentioned yesterday. The one that is most apparent to anyone is that the Lord of glory came in humble circumstances and was presented to us in His first moments upon earth in a manger. Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem where He was to be born. Crowds filled the town, but there was no place for them. They spent their time at an inn and not even within the rooms of the inn, but in an outbuilding where the animals were housed. It was there in the humblest of circumstances that the King of glory was born.
This paradox did not escape the biblical writers, of course. In fact, it was so evident to Luke that he highlighted it in his telling of the story. I wonder if you have noticed that in the second chapter of Luke there is a downward progression from the important people of the world to those who, in the eyes of the world, are not important at all.
Verse 1 introduces the name of Caesar Augustus. He was the emperor who had established the pax Romana, the Roman peace. For twenty years the Roman Empire had been torn by civil war. But then Augustus took the throne. He put down insurrections, sealed the borders against the barbarians, and cleared the Mediterranean of pirates. His peace descended upon the civilized world of that day. This was Caesar Augustus. So when Luke begins his story by saying, “In those days Caesar Augustus . . .’’ he begins at the top.
Verse 2 introduces Quirinius, the governor of Syria. Quirinius was also a very important person; to be a governor of a Roman province was significant. Yet Quirinius was only a governor, after all. So we can see that Luke is stepping down just a bit when he talks about this man.
First, Augustus. Second, Quirinius. Then we come to verse 4 and read, “So Joseph . . .” Joseph was a poor Jew, a member of a people overcome by Rome and therefore insignificant in the eyes of the Romans.
Verse 5 brings us to Mary. Now we have introduced a woman, who according to the thinking of the time is one even less significant than Joseph. She was poor, also. Then at last, after Luke has gone through this list of Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, Joseph, and Mary, at the very end of the story he comes to the child whom she wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a manger. The paradox at this point is that the baby, that insignificant poor infant, was none other than the Lord of glory. Luke is well aware of this irony, and he is calling our attention to it as he writes.
What other paradox was mentioned today? How many evidences of it can you find in the passages that describe the coming of Christ?
Review the downward progression found in Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. What paradox is found within this progression?
How does the Christian life mirror the dual themes of Jesus’ humble station and the glory he possesses?