The Birth of Jesus
(Luke 2:1-12)

Merry Christmas! Welcome to Christmas in July! Yes you heard right - tonight we are studying Luke 2, the story of our Savior's birth!

Father God we thank you for a relaxing vacation and praise you for all your blessings. Thank you for the group assembled here as we learn about and celebrate the birth of your only Son.

Give us new insights into this marvelous incarnation and coming of the Messiah, we pray. Make it new and real to us as never before. Praise you Jesus for coming to die for us!

satan we come against you and your schemes to disrupt this study. We bind you and rebuke you and cast you and your demons out in Jesus Name.

Thank You Father, for loving us so much that Your son died for OUR that we can be free from sin. Holy Spirit we invite you to be our teacher and to bring these things to our remembrance in the coming week. Thank You Jesus! Anoint the eyes of our hearts to receive your Word with gladness. In Jesus Name, AMEN and AMEN.

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Now some of you may think it's strange to have Christmas in July! But it just so happens that's where we are in Luke. I thought it might be fun to see how much we know about Christmas. Get ready for question #1!

magi.gif (12806 bytes) 1. How many wise men were there?

Although tradition suggests there were three wise men, as in the carol "We Three Kings of Orient Are," the Bible actually does not give the number of Magi. There WERE three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, and were at least TWO kings. Some traditions place their number at 12!

2. Did Joseph meet the wise men?

The Bible does not say! Matthew writes that the magi found the Child with Mary, but makes no mention of Joseph. Matthew 2:9-11. Of course, as a good parent, we would probably expect Joseph to have been there. And he was mentioned in v. 13 when the angel warned them to flee to Egypt.

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3. What animal did Mary ride to Bethlehem?

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Again the Bible doesn't say! Although it would be a long walk for a pregnant woman from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the Bible does not mention what animal, if any, Mary rode.

Isn't it funny how we SEE things that really aren't there? Ready for another???

4. The Holy Family named the child "Jesus" because: a. An Angel told Mary to use the name; b. An Angel told Joseph to use the name; c. All of the above; d. None of the above.

All of the above! In Luke, the Angel Gabriel tells Mary to use the name "Jesus." Luke 1:30-31. In Matthew, an angel tells Joseph to use the name. Matthew 1:20-21

Now this is really neat! Mary and Joseph were BOTH listening to God and were BOTH told the same thing, and BOTH obeyed! Sounds like a recipe for a good marriage!

5. What type of building was Jesus born in? a. Stable; b. Cave; c. Inn; d. The Bible does not say.

The Bible doesn't say! Although Luke tells us that the baby was placed in a manger, there is no mention of where the manger was located. Now a manger was a feeding trough for animals, but we aren't told where it was located.

6. What animals were present at the Nativity? a. Cattle; b. Sheep; c. Doves; d. All of the above; e. The Bible does not say.

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Y'all are catching on! Right, the Bible doesn't say! Despite the line in Away in a Manger that "the cattle were lowing, the poor baby wakes," there is no mention of which animals were present at the Nativity.

Now, don't get me wrong - there could have been animals there, etc., and TRADITION says there were, but the point is - to look at the accounts we have in a fresh light and concentrate on what the Bible DOES say.

Jackie - Okay how was there a manager in the inn?? I thought there wasn't room in the inn.

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In those days, inns were called kahns or caravansaries. They provided shelter for travelers and their animals, but little else. Usually the shelter was built about an open court that might contain a well. Some were two stories tall, with shelter for animals on the first floor and guestrooms on the second. In others, the stables were separated from the inns. When an inn was crowded, travelers might find shelter with the animals. And a stable could have been separate in one of the limestone caves in the hillsides.

So not to cause an argument or bring you under condemnation, let's look at what the Bible DOES say starting with Luke 2. Now part of the birth story is in Matthew 1 & 2 and we may touch on those. Remember that these two accounts blend to give a full picture of Christ's birth.

Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

Luke is the only writer who ties his narrative to historical events. Remember he is writing to a Gentile audience who would want to know when these things occurred in relation to THEIR history. And it helps historians today to be able to relate it to archaeological discoveries that are confirming that the Word is true historically.

p_augustus.jpg (28284 bytes) The time of the Census was about 6-5 B. C., probably 6 months after John the Baptist was born. The incarnation is a fact firmly rooted in history, and Luke stresses this by giving us its specific historical context. . Caesar Augustus was emperor of the Roman Empire that by the end of the first century B. C. ruled the Mediterranean Basin. His reign ushered in the Pax Romana, a time of relative peace throughout the empire. . About 8 (to 6) B. C. Augustus issued a decree that a census of the whole Empire be taken. The purpose of this census probably was to provide a basis for levying taxes

The time of the Census was about 6-5 B. C., probably 6 months after John the Baptist was born. The incarnation is a fact firmly rooted in history, and Luke stresses this by giving us its specific historical context. . Caesar Augustus was emperor of the Roman Empire that by the end of the first century B. C. ruled the Mediterranean Basin. His reign ushered in the Pax Romana, a time of relative peace throughout the empire. . About 8 (to 6) B. C. Augustus issued a decree that a census of the whole Empire be taken. The purpose of this census probably was to provide a basis for levying taxes

There were a few things about this time in history that helped spread the gospel. One was the Pax Romana - "Roman Peace". Because the Romans had conquered all of the known world, there were no wars and relatively little conflict to impede the gospel being preached.

Also, since the Romans conquered the world, there was a common language that most everyone knew called koine (common) Greek. This is the language the New Testament was originally written in.

Another thing that helped spread the gospel were the Roman roads. Everywhere that Romans went, they built roads, some of which are still being used today. This made travel easier and evangelizing easier. So even though the Jews groaned under what they saw to be Roman oppression, God knew just the right time to send his Son!

GloryBe† - God works in mysterious ways...praise Him

So when Caesar Augustus issued the proclamation for a census, Mary and Joseph were affected.

Luke 2:3-4 And everyone went to his own town to register. 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.

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God used a pagan emperor to send Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so that prophecy could be fulfilled! Apparently each person had to return to the town of his ancestors. Since Joseph was a descendant of David, he had to return to David's birthplace, which was Bethlehem. We can see the hand of God intervening to bring about the fulfillment of a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. "Yet in all of this God acted in such a way that none of the participants were aware of how they were fulfilling prophecy."

eternallysecure - His counsels oh now wise.

Think about it - Mary and Joseph could not be accused of INTENTIONALLY fulfilling this prophecy - the pagan emperor was responsible for them being in the right place at the right time!

GloryBe† - Fulfilling the Promises!

eternallysecure - Bethlehem how little among the thousands of Judah. Micah 5

A skeptic might ask - What is the probability of the prophecies about the Messiah being fulfilled by chance alone? The probability that 8 prophecies of the Messiah would be fulfilled in Jesus is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (17 zeros). The probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled is 1 in 1 with 157 zeroes after it! So chance had nothing to do with it!! God gave the prophecies and brought about their fulfillment in Jesus!

BSoC - He is Lord!

Luke 2:5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

"Swaddling clothes" (KJV) >>>>>

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According to this passage, it seems that Jesus was born before Joseph and Mary married. In those days you had to get a divorce before you could break an engagement, and at first Joseph had decided to divorce her privately. An engagement was as binding as marriage, and you had to divorce your fiancé to get out of an engagement. But we are told in Matthew than an angel appeared to him and told him not to do this.

Matthew 1:19-20 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

BSoC - Because God can see the future, it was easy enough to provide the prophecy of what He already knew would happen.

In Biblical times, a couple became engaged when their parents arranged a marriage for them. Then the man went home to his father's house and prepared a home for his bride. He couldn't go get her and make her his wife until his FATHER thought the house was ready.

Jesus went to Heaven to prepare a place for His Bride - US! and when will he return? When the Father says it is ready!

Apparently Joseph found out about Mary's pregnancy when she returned from her relative Elizabeth's house, when she was about 3 months pregnant. By law, the people would have thought that she had committed adultery and could have been stoned to death. Joseph was going to keep her from this disgrace, but didn't feel right about marrying her until the angel told him to. So "take her home" was the process by which Joseph came and got Mary and took her to the home he had built for them. They weren't technically married until the marriage was consummated, which occurred after Jesus birth, according to Matthew 1:25.

Joseph wanted to do the "right thing" - according to custom - but thank God, he listened to God's messenger when he was told to do differently! You know, that brings up a thought - are we willing to do things God's way if it conflicts with our customs and culture? Do we realize that the Word often contradicts what others think is the "right" thing to do?

BSoC - The world wants to think it lives by a moral compass, but they want to be able to adjust the compass to fit their views of morality. It only has to be off a little bit, and it will lead to destruction.

Right BSOC, and the world's compass is geared to an unholy lodestone - pointing its followers to hell!

GloryBe† - Yes, and it can be frustrating when we are trying and another family member can be a road block... It is totally just Christian music on a radio can upset worldly people...and I keep it low enough so just I can barely hear it...hehhe

Now here's one of the prophecies about Jesus being born in Bethlehem:

Micah 5:2, 4, 5a "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans [rulers] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins [goings out] are from of old, from ancient times [from days of eternity]. . .He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace...

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Bethlehem means "House of Bread". Jesus proclaimed Himself the Bread of Life.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (see also verses 41, 48, 51).

This is also where Ruth gleaned wheat in the fields of Boaz (She was an ancestor of Jesus). Remember, he was her "kinsman redeemer" as Jesus is our redeemer, buying us back from the control and slavery of satan?

Ephrathah means productivity. The family of David were Ephrathites (Ruth 1:2; I Sam. 17:12), a suburb of Bethlehem. Now Bethlehem Ephrathah has produced the bread of life! Hallelujah! Praise God

It was prophesied that the Messiah would also be a shepherd like David (v. 4). Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. V. 2a indicates He will be more than human descendant of David; He will be one whose "origins are from of old from ancient times " or "whose goings out are from of old, from days of eternity". In other words, He will be God! All this fulfilled, when a pagan emperor ordered a census! Incredible isn't it, how God works?

There has been a vast resurgence of paganism in our world today, and sometimes we Christians feel intimidated by it. BUT, we need to remember that God IS IN CONTROL and can even make pagans subject to His Will. Praise Him! And Old Caesar isn't the only pagan God used. Think about the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and King Cyrus and all the others we are told of who did God's bidding, whether they knew it or not. Folks, there is VICTORY in Jesus and in Him alone!

Now on the way to Bethlehem, we are told that Mary is expecting a child but aren't told how far along she is. "While they were there", she gave birth to Jesus. "The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about eighty miles by the most direct route and would have taken several days to complete. With Mary's pregnancy almost full term; this would hardly have been a pleasant experience."

Now guys, you can't possibly know how Mary felt, but those of us who've had children - can you imagine walking 80 miles??? I don't think that riding a donkey would have been much easier either!

"It must have seemed miserable timing to the woman - nine months pregnant and riding a donkey or walking all day in the dust and weather." I think I would have said, "Joe, baby, I'll just stay home and let you take care of it!"

But Mary and Joseph stuck together - as married couples should. Do you know that in the OT, men took off ONE YEAR from work to get to know their brides and try to conceive a child? What a honeymoon! Maybe we should think about doing this. Might be a whole lot less divorce!

GloryBe† - Did Mary have a Mid-wife? Did she deliver alone...with Joseph?

We simply aren't told that. Quite probably other of Joseph's or Mary's relatives was there and could have assisted. We just don't know.

"The Lord uses many things to accomplish His purposes. In this case He used the unwelcome decree of a hated government in order to fulfill His ancient prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea." How could this statement apply to your life? Often we rebel against God when circumstances go wrong.

Jackie - that's very true when things goes wrong OldTimer

Talk about determination and persistence! That applies to Mary and Joseph I think. There is no indication that either of them resisted the will of God OR of the emperor. WE would probably have looked at the trying circumstances and said, "Forget that! It couldn't be God's will. It's too hard!" Or if we did it, we'd grumble to everyone who'd listen, probably start a strike or a march or something, write letters to the editor - anything but make that hot, dusty, 80 mile trip to Bethlehem!

GloryBe† - Becoming a thorough Christian is hard work...a lot of studying and prayer and learning self control...and to be kind and charitable in all situations...sometimes...I'd like to just yell at some people...or smack 'em! lol. WE are HUMAN...we have to get upset now and then...but, as we become closer to Father...the span of time becomes greater...between the times of anger or being upset...I find that to be very true...*S*

Right GB, obedience and sacrifice are keys to victorious living. Sometimes the Church errs when it tries to present an "easy believism" - and doesn't ask potential believers to count the cost of following Jesus.

Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem along with many others who came because of the decree of Caesar. A small town like Bethlehem was not prepared to accommodate so large a crowd at one time. The result was that Joseph and Mary found no housing

GloryBe† - kinda like a convention...

Now wouldn't that just be ducky? The "final straw" the one that "broke the camel's back"? Here poor Mary trudges 80 miles and NOW has no place to stay! Everything was booked and they had no "reservation". Actually in those days, it was first come, first served.

"'There was no room for them in the inn. How loaded with meaning is that statement! It seems symbolic of events later in Jesus' life, when men had no room for Him in their hearts. Only on the cross and in the tomb was there room." Doesn't that give you chills? "Only on the cross and in the tomb was there room".

OlePappy - God knew her

Right OP, God REALLY had confidence in Mary and Joseph! He knew that they could be depended on!

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"The accommodations in Bethlehem were hardly up to Holiday Inn standards. The word here translated "inn" refers to a lodging place, not a luxury hotel". We talked before about the kahns or caravansaries, that were usually an enclosed structure with an open courtyard for animals below and rooms on the second level. Or the animals could have been kept in limestone caves that were in the surrounding hills. Either way, it would have been noisy, smelly, and uncomfortable - kind of like camping out in a barn! I gave birth in a hospital, and it was awful. I can't even begin to think what it must have been like for Mary.

GloryBe† - What are we willing to give up for God?

Although the Bible doesn't specifically say there were animals there, I think it is very likely that these weary travelers were sharing quarters with lambs, goats, and maybe donkeys.

GloryBe† - As goes the GOOD Shepherd...correlation again

You know, when I read the accounts about Mary and Joseph, I don't get the sense that they felt they were giving up anything. They were humble, obedience, and full of joy to be of service to God! They patiently endured the trials they were given. What marvelous examples to us of faith.

At any rate, and it was in a place used to keep animals that the Son of God was born. Mary had wrapped Jesus in "swaddling clothes", which were strips of cloth wrapped around the baby. "Newborn babies were normally wrapped to make them feel secure."

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Rich people would wrap their children in fancy shawls as befitted their station in life. Mary, being poor, wrapped our Lord with plain cloth, a foreshadowing of his being wrapped in grave cloths and laid in the tomb.

GloryBe† - the fulfillment had ya chills...

The greater our vision of God, the less that earthly things mean. And it becomes, not so much what we "give up", but baggage that we are glad to get rid of! Not that we've fully attained it yet , but we can see it and begin to understand it! The important thing is to be ready and willing for God to act in our lives. As He reveals His will to us, He ENABLES us to fulfill it.

Why wasn't Jesus born in Jerusalem, the Holy City? This is where the Wise Men sought Him. After all, the King of the Jews should have been born in a palace, right? So why wasn't Jesus born in a palace in Jerusalem, the holy city, as befitted God's Son? Why did God have His Son born in the circumstances described in Luke 2:7 rather than in a royal or at least comfortable household?

One reason was the evil ruler Herod...God knew his mind. Herod was evil and had not hesitated to kill several members of his own family to keep his power!

The humble circumstances of Jesus' birth in a stable drew attention to His identification with the need of mankind. ANYONE can relate to Jesus, because He started out "as low as you can go".

Luke 6:20: He said "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God'.

When He said this, He knew what He was talking about!

Luke 9:58: Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Jesus had no permanent home. For those who are homeless, who are wandering around with nothing to call their own, Jesus identifies with them!

Luke 22:27: For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. "

Jesus came to be a servant. Jesus has called us to be servants. Servants serve. They don't rule, condemn or look down on others. They serve.

II Corinthians 8:9: " For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

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Jesus became poor for OUR SAKES! He was born in a humble stable to poor parents for US. How can we become rich THROUGH his poverty? We become rich if we accept the kingdom of God, through Jesus Christ and the kingdom is made possible through Jesus' sacrifice for us.

The Son of God was born in a stable. What implications does this fact have for the way you view your own situation? Or put it another way, since Jesus was content to live what we would consider "poor" lifestyle, what lifestyle choices should we be making? To achieve wealth and fame and store up treasures here on earth? And if we choose Jesus' lifestyle, what will the world say about us? Should we care what others think then? Just some thoughts to meditate on.

Hess777 - I think that the more humbly we live on earth, the more wealth we have waiting for us in heaven.

OlePappy - no...we should store up treasures in heaven

Jackie - we should be more concerned with winning souls then having a big house & a nice car

Hess777 - We store up treasures in heaven by obedience. Obedience is humbling ourselves just as Christ did.

Jackie - we are the Light unto the world we should always remember that whether were on the job Or at home

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"Just as Jesus was born in a humble place, so the first announcement of His birth came to humble men."

Luke 2:8-11 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

Imagine being a shepherd, sitting out on a hillside on a quiet night, watching over the flocks, glancing at the stars, being alert for wolves and bears and thieves, minding your own business so to speak, when suddenly something completely unexpected happens!

Hess777 - Kind of reminds me of the rapture of the Church OT :) - won't that be awesome!!

A being appears in the night sky and the glory of the Lord is shining around him. The glory (Hebrew Shekinah) always was an indication of the presence of God. Wow! What would you do? tremble in fear? They did! And the first thing this angel said was "Fear not". You know, we hear a lot of discussion today about people who claim to see all kinds of visions and angels - but how many react like the shepherds (and Zechariah and Mary) did? Kind of makes you wonder what they've really seen!

Hess777 - Kind of like the way Peter and John acted at the Transfiguration. Remember how fearful they were when God spoke?

Right Hess! And when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they were fearful! Fear not! God loves you!

Fear not! We need to remember that! The devil will try to bring fear and doubt on your mind - he will try to rob you of what you've learned tonight. But fear not! God has his angels watching over you! God has a marvelous message of peace and joy for you. Fear not! This is a great note to end on. Fear not!

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Father God thank you for the Word you've given us tonight. May we see the "Christmas Story" in a new light! May our faith be renewed and may we be encouraged when hardships come our way! The Savior is born! Hallelujah!

God Bless you all! Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ through the love of the Holy Spirit! AMEN and AMEN!

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

Return to Luke Homepage

*Picture Sources:

Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger's Bible Handbook. Revised by Gary N Larson. Moody Press, Chicago, 1966: 1984.

The Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. by Pat Alexander.  Chancelor Press, London, 1988.

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