The Significance of Christmas: the Birth of our Savior


This will take only four minutes to read.

First Century Manger

The past two weeks we have studied the Christmas story as recorded for us by Luke in the second chapter of his gospel. The first week we looked thoroughly at 2:1-3 so that we could understand exactly when in time this event took place, and in doing so we also learned what took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Last week we examined vv. 4,5 which gave us a key bit of information about the child to be born: both of his parents were of the house and lineage of King David. After learning this we explored why this is so important. To keep up before reading this article, which will delve into the last two verses of our selected passage, I encourage you to read the first article here, and the second one here.

Today we close our brief study of Christmas, Luke 2:1-7, by taking a closer look at vv. 6 & 7 of our passage.

Luke 2:6,7 (ESV)

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

I hope that you see how careful examination and study (1:3) has allowed Luke to write about one of the most important historical and spiritual events with such simplicity.  He did not get into the theology behind this birth, or even recount all of the prophesies that were just fulfilled. He simply stated, “And she gave birth” (v. 7). Who did she give birth to?

Later, in verse eight, a group of shepherds were “out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'” (vv. 8-11)

She gave birth to a Savior. This was the mission of Jesus, right? While Jesus was in the house of Zacchaeus, he says to him, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (19:10). This was the mission and purpose of the little child Mary wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in that cold manger.

She gave birth to the Son of God. Back in Nazareth before traveling to Bethlehem Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel. He told her, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus. he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end…the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God” (1:32-33, 35).

The Son of God, a Savior, came to seek and save the lost. More than that, she gave birth to God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:1, 14).

In his gospel, Matthew states, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Is. 7:14]: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means God with us)” (Matt. 1:22, 23).

God came to the earth, in human form, “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is why we celebrate Christmas. Our Lord God, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, our Savior, came into this world, the world he created (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3), to save those who would believe in him from eternal separation from him (John 3:16; Romans 3:23, 6:23).

I would like to close this article with another passage of scripture that speaks simply to what Luke recorded for us. This passage is found in Philippians chapter two and was written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi. In 2:6-8 Paul says this: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

This is who was born in the town of Bethlehem, the place of ancestry for his earthly parents and King David, as a result of a decree given by Julius Caesar (Octavian).

Merry Christmas!

The Significance of Christmas – The Time in History


(This post only requires 6 minutes of your day.)

Gaius Julius Caesar AugustsTo begin our study I want to take you to the book of Luke. Luke, as you may or may not know, was not an apostle, but was a close friend of the Apostle Paul and traveled with him on some of his missionary journeys. He was also a physician and somewhat of a historian, as can be seen in The Gospel According to Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles (his historical account of the first century church). I believe you will find Luke to be a gifted writer, one who, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was able to convey complicated historical accounts in simple language that requires little study to fully grasp. 

An example of this is found in chapter two of his gospel, and specifically verses 1-7:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7 ESV).

In these seven short verses Luke recounts the event of God becoming flesh. An event that has not been outdone by any other event in the history of man. And Luke lays it out so simply for us.

Let’s begin with verse one. First, “in those days” is a reference to 1:1-80. This is to say, “during this time.” So around the time that John the Baptist was born (v. 57), and Mary is visited by Gabriel (vv. 26-38) to learn that she will carry her Savior (1:47), “a decree went from Caesar Augustus” (2:1). Who is this Caesar Augustus?

This is Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, and arguably the most successful Roman Emperor in the history of the empire. You may also know him as Octavian. His birth name was Gaius Octavius and he was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar. Through the last will and living testament of Julius Caesar, Octavian is made emperor, and at the age of 18 years old he becomes the sole emperor of the entire Roman Empire. This is 31 B.C.[1]

Octavian is most notably known for “a time of peace and extensive architectural achievements”.[2] He said of himself that, “he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble”[3]. During his reign he built highways fit for travel and commerce. These roads connected cities within the Roman Empire together and led to the city of Rome so that goods could travel in and out of the city creating a vast network of trade. He also reformed the Roman system of taxation.

As he expanded the empire and continued with building projects and massive reform across the Roman world, it became necessary to have a more organized system to assess the amount of tax countries needed to pay towards the Roman Treasury.[4] This is the reason for the “decree” mentioned in verse one of our text. Caesar Augustus, Octavian, needed an “official counting and registration of citizens [as well as] a property evaluation for tax purposes”[5].

In verse two Luke gives us more detail which helps us to narrow down the time in which this census took place. For the sake of time I will not delve too deeply here, but will say that Luke’s mention of Quirinius being the governor of Syria helps us to place the time of Christ’s birth at around 7-6 B.C.[6]

We now come to verse three which states, “And all went to be registered, each to his own town.” We have established why this registration was taking place, when this registration took place, and have even had the opportunity to scratch the surface of who Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus was. With all of this learned, why does Luke tell us that each went to his own town to be registered?

This statement serves a twofold purpose. First, it speaks to how Augustus ruled his Empire. “The genuineness of the statement that everyone had to go into his own city to be enrolled has also been strikingly confirmed. It was a characteristic feature of August’s action towards a subject people that he gave every consideration to their national customs”.[7] This registration of the entire Roman world did not require everyone to return to their town of ancestry. This travel was something that the Jews felt was necessary, which Caesar allowed, and is why we find Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem in verse four (more on this next week).

The second and most important purpose verse three serves is to show us that Caesar was “an instrument in the all-guiding hand of God”[8]. In Micah 5:2 we find a prophesy stating that out of Bethlehem will come one who will be ruler over Israel. This is a prophesy fulfilled and facilitated by the actions of Caesar Augustus calling for a registration for the purpose of taxes. These actions are ultimately controlled by God and allowed by God for his will. This is a point that cannot be missed.

Behind all of the Roman expansion and the success of Octavian in establishing a time of peace in the Empire, God was moving and working. God, knowing all things, knew that the time was now to place his Son in the midst of his creation. The world was never more ripe to receive the Gospel and spread it to the ends of the earth and through the ages. It all started with this registration, and with Joseph and Mary traveling to the town of Bethlehem to do as they were told by Rome and to obey the direction and leading of God.

Focus.

This Christmas season, I want to implore you to take time away from family and shopping to think about the sovereign hand of God working in the midst of his creation to accomplish his will. Especially think of this in the context of Luke 2:1-7 and understand how actively involved God was in moving Caesar to call for a census that would literally drive Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

Next week we will get into the significance of Bethlehem and why it is so crucial that Jesus was born there. Be sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss it. Also, add a comment below letting me know that you stopped by and read this. I hope that this first post of our Christmas series was beneficial to you and most of all that it has helped you to understand more fully the Significance of Christmas.
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