Christmas Candlelight Service (Dec 24th)

Pastor's Summary of Luke 2:1-20

Luke is concerned to place Jesus in the time-line of history, as a real human being. We know of Augustus' attempt to clean up the taxation system: as well as requiring more reasonable practices of tax collectors, he introduced a truly equitable tax: a poll-tax. Every 14 years, a census was held: people were required to present themselves in their ancestral town, to register for the tax. Records are fragmentary but we do know that a census was held by "Quirinius" (v. 2) of Syria in 6-7 AD. Perhaps Judea was included in a census of 8-7 BC, "the first registration". From Matthew 2:16, we know that Herod the Great sought to kill Jesus by slaughtering all children aged two or less. Because Herod died in 4 BC, Jesus was born no later than 6 BC. The dates agree. Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem, the city of David, to "to be registered" (v. 5). Jesus is born in Bethlehem in fulfilment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2--5; a shepherd-king is to be born there.

In v. 7, Jesus is treated like any other newborn of the time: he is wrapped in cloths, but there may be a message in his being born in "a manger": animals normally fed from it; Jesus is sustenance for the world. In vv. 8-14, we learn the meaning of Jesus' birth. those who hear the pronouncement by the angel are "shepherds" (v. 8), lowly people. David too was a shepherd; in Luke, Jesus comes to the poor, the lowly. the message of Christ's birth is indeed a joyful one-for all.

V. 11 mentions our great claims as to who Jesus is: "Savior", "Messiah" and "Lord". As "Savior", he restores us to wholeness, rescues us from sin and alienation from God. In Jesus, God is present with sinners and saves us from destructive self-isolation to union with him, in a nurturing community. As "Messiah", he inaugurates the era of heavenly peace: the end-time has begun. As "Lord", he is God come in human form. The kingdom is for all those whom God has chosen (v. 14b). In vv. 15-20 the shepherds visit Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They tell them and many others the good news the angels have told them.