The birth of the Messiah

(A discussion between five friends about the Christmas incident recorded in the Gospel of Luke)

Roshan: Welcome to all for this discussion on the Christmas incident recorded in the Gospel of Luke. All: Hi Roshan: If you have your Bible please turn the pages to the portion Luke 2: 1- 21. Rohit will read it aloud for us. Others please listen & follow carefully. Rohit: Luke 2 New King James Version (NKJV) Christ Born of Mary

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took

place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Glory in the Highest

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Circumcision of Jesus

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Roshan: Thank you Rohit. Before we continue, let us pray “ Our Loving Heavenly Father, we pray that you would open the eyes of our understanding as we discuss about your word. Please speak to us. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen” I think all of you would have understood the story that we read. Please spend a few minutes reading once again silently. Rohit: This Christmas incident recorded in the Gospel of Luke is one of the most popular portions of the Bible. Pooja: Every year 25th December is celebrated as Christmas but I remember reading somewhere that nobody is sure that 25th December is the day on which Jesus was born. Rahim: The year of birth of Jesus is between 4 BC and 6 BC. The date of birth is not known for sure. The birth of Jesus has been celebrated at different dates. Preeti: I heard that some Christians don’t celebrate Christmas. Roshan: The main reasons why Christmas is not celebrate are that noone knows the exact date, another reason is that there is no instruction in the Bible to celebrate Christmas, though there are many feasts like Passover, Pentecost etc. which Jesus himself observed. They also reiterate that, if the Bible tells us to commemorate one event, it is the death of Jesus and not His birth. Moreover Christmas has become highly commercialized and many of the symbols of Christmas like the Santaclaus, Christmas tree have nothing to do with Christmas. Rohit: Actually December 25th was originally celebrated as the birthday of Mithras, the Persian god of light. Around 300 A.D it was decided by

the early church leaders after the decree of Roman Emperor Constantinople to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Many of the customs in the worship of Mithras were absorbed into Christmas. Preeti: If nobody knows the date of the birth of Jesus then I think Christmas should not be celebrated. I think the existence of Jesus itself could be questioned if the date of his birth is not known. Roshan: I don’t think so. Just read the first three verses of Luke 2 once again. What can you infer from those verses? Rohit: We can infer that the birth of Jesus happened when a Caeser Augustus was the Roman Emperor and Quirnius was governor of Syria during the time when a census was called for. The birth of Jesus is therefore a historical event. The historicity of Jesus cannot be questioned just because we do not know the actual date of his birth or because some Christians do not celebrate Christmas. Pooja: Why did the Roman Emperor order for a census? Rahim: The census would have been taken for the purpose of collecting taxes. The census must have been a laborious exercise in those days involving a large number of government officials. Roshan: Locate the place from where Joseph and Mary moved for the census in the map below.

Preeti: Nazareth and Bethlehem seem to be quite far off. What must be the distance between the two places? Rohit: I think it must be about 150 Kms. In those days they must have used a donkey for travelling. It should have taken atleast three days to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Roshan: The terrain around Bethlehem must have been hilly, the journey would have been all the more grueling because Mary was at the end of pregnancy. Probably there must have been some deadline fixed by the rulers for registration, as a result of which they were forced to undertake this Journey. Where was Jesus born? Pooja: In Bethlehem. Roshan: Can you be more specific. Where in Bethlehem was Jesus born? Pooja: He was born in a manger. What is a manger? Preeti: Manger is a place where animals are fed i.e it is a feeding trough Rahim: Bethlehem must have been crowded as a result of officials and people who came for census. It was for this reason that they would not have been able to get a good place for lodging. Obviously the highly

developed hospitality industry that we see these days would not have been there in those days. Rohit: Verse 7 says that Mary brought forth her firstborn son which implies she must have given birth to other children later. Roshan: But there is one difference, while other children were born naturally i.e as a result of sexual union, Jesus Christ was born supernaturally as a result of virgin conception as per our earlier discussion. The Bible doesn’t record any distinguishing marks in the birth of Jesus Christ. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes like any new born in those days. The infant looked like any other child and he didn’t have any halo as depicted in various art forms. Please read verses 8 to 12. What happened next? Pooja: The angel of God announces that Jesus has been born, to some shepherds who were watching the flock in the night. What does the phrase “glory of the Lord” mean? Why were they afraid on seeing the angel? Roshan: Glory is synonymous with majesty, splendor, honor, praise, worthiness, etc. The phrase "glory of the Lord" is used to describe the manifestation of God's greatness. It was seen as a consuming fire, a cloud, radiance, and brightness during different times in the Bible. The manifestation of God’s greatness would obviously bring fear because sin had separated man from God as a result of what Adam did in the Garden of Eden. What message did the angel bring from God? Preeti: The angel said “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” Rohit: This is a message from God himself to all of mankind irrespective of religion, race or social status. We need to meditate what the angel said. Roshan: Yes, the first message is “Do not be afraid”

Rahim: We live in a world that can easily cause us to be afraid. The problems of Terrorism, Maoism, Social unrest, Unemployment, Corruption, Poverty, Rape, Road Accidents, Economic Depression etc are widespread. Preeti: The newspapers and news channels are filled with bad news. But we cannot blame them because they are true. Pooja: On top of it, many people were talking of the end of the world based on the Mayan Calendar. I was relieved after 21.12.2012 passed off. Rohit: The next message that the angel says is “I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people” Roshan: In stark contrast to the bad news that we daily hear what the angel brought was good news of great joy and the news is not for any one section of the society but for all of mankind. What is the good news that the angel brought? Pooja: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. Preeti: City of David refers to Bethlehem isn’t it? Rohit: Yes, we can see that in Verse 4. We saw in the last discussion on the “Announcement of the birth of the Messiah” that Jesus was born to save people from their sins. That is why he is referred to as Saviour. The Saviour is one who saves those in desperate need. For example a man who is drowning in an ocean needs somebody to save him. A man who met with an accident needs somebody to take him to a doctor to save him. Saviour is a person who rescues. I remember a famous verse in the Bible “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal.” Rahim: The Angel refers the newborn to Christ, the Lord, What does it mean?

Roshan: Christ means Anointed One. He is the promised Messiah. The word the Lord here means, one who has supreme power and authority i.e God. The angel gives a sign to identify the Saviour who has been born. There may be other children who were born in Bethlehem that day but the one in the manger is the Messiah, Incarnate God. What happened next? (See V13 & 14) Pooja: A large group of angels join together with this angel and sing a song. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” It appears that they are praising God for sending a Saviour to the world. But I don’t understand what it means. Rohit: Glory to God “in the highest” refers to “in heaven”. Peace is as a result of God’s work of salvation. Man who was separated from God as a result of sin can now have peace with God. A peace that God is pleased to offer to all men. Preeti: Why is there so much lack of peace in this world when God sent a Saviour for this very purpose? Roshan: This peace is not something which happens automatically as a result of the birth of the Messiah. Each person needs to have his sins forgiven and have peace with God. When relationship between a man and God is restored then only can he learn to be at peace with his neighbor. Unless every person on earth has peace with God, there will not be lasting peace on earth. What happened later? Rahim: The shepherds hurriedly went and found the Child in the manger as told by the angels. The shepherds made wide publicity about the birth and many people were amazed about what they said. But there is no record of other people coming and seeing the Child. Pooja: Probably they did not believe their message. Anybody who understood that the Saviour of the world is born would have definitely come to see the Child.

Roshan: Joseph and Mary gave the Child the name Jesus as they were told to by the Angel after the virgin conception. What have you learnt from this Christmas incident? Rohit: God could have chosen to be born in a King’s palace but He chose to be born in a dirty, unhealthy stable. He became poor so that we can become rich. Secondly, the ultimate purpose for us is that we should give Glory to God. We should join the heavenly angels in praising God for what He did for all of mankind. Rahim: Good News is very rare in this world. This Christmas I got an opportunity to listen to this Good News. It is my desire that our cities are filled with Joy that only God can bring. Pooja: The message “Do not be afraid” was really comforting to me. I also understood what Salvation really means and I want to have the peace that God is offering to us. Preeti: The news of the birth of the savior was announced to the lowly shepherds. It is wonderful to note that God is on the side of the poor, the nobodies in society and the outcasts by being born in the most humble circumstances. Roshan: The angels brought the good news of the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds. We should also be the messengers sharing this good news to all our friends. May I request Rohit to pray for all of us? Rohit: “Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Jesus to this world to save us from our sins. We pray that you would help our friends who are in fear. We pray that they would receive your peace this Christmas. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen” Roshan: May all of us experience God’s love reaching out to forgive our sins and to save us. May the Messiah take care of all you. Bye to all. See you soon.