Sermon Notes: The Nativity Experience | Part Two
The Nativity Experience | Part Two
After 400 years of silence from God, an angel speaks to the young, country girl. Never married. Virgin. The angel brings the news, “you will conceive a child through the Holy Spirit” He will be the savior of the world and his kingdom will have no end.”
Her fiancé, Joseph, is devastated because his future wife has blatantly cheated on him, but he is a just man and scripture says he is about to divorce her privately when an Angel visits him as well. “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife”. Trust God.
Joseph and Mary meet and talk about the angels and go forward with life. A life that is pregnant with possibility but the birth pangs will be extreme difficult.
The government leaders make the announcement that all people need to report for a census and if you are not living in your home town, then you must return to that town to be counted.
What would it have felt like for Joseph and Mary to get the news of the census? “Mary, this all adds up! The rabbis’ teach of the messiah being born in Bethlehem. Micah’s prophecy said ‘out of the city of David’.” Now, we are to make a journey!
So, Joseph/Mary (who is very pregnant) embark on the 90 mile journey. You can’t really imagine what that terrain is like until you visit. In Texas, you literally see the same terrain for 300 miles. In Israel, you will see completely different terrain in 20 miles. Their journey will lead them through rugged mountains, dry desserts, and cold nights. At a minimum it would take 3 days to make the journey in that day and time. With woman 9 months pregnant, it would take around a week.
You can see that area looks very similar to the land around the Texas Hill Country. The Sunset was might have looked just like that when Joseph and Mary crested the hill and entered Bethlehem.
These are the terraces of Boaz where Ruth gleaned the wheat. This is where David looked after his sheep. Just over there is where Rachel is buried. We are going home. As we enter Bethlehem, we are stepping across a threshold where we will never go back.
Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem and struggle to find a place to stay. Since it is Joseph’s home town. They most likely go to an extended family’s home. It was packed with people everywhere. Joseph and Mary needed a private secluded place for the birth, so they went to the place where animals were kept at night, because there was no room where the guests normally stay.
The story that we often tell is that they wandered the night looking for a place and finally went to a hotel that was full yet the innkeeper offered for them to sleep in his barn outback. Actually, there is no scripture in the Bible that refers to an innkeeper. There is only 2 verses used to describe the scene. Scripture says: she gave birth, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.
First, if you were going to your home town, common sense says that your family would find a spot for you somewhere. Who would kick their pregnant sister in law out?
Second, the word “inn” is used two times in scripture. The other time it is referring to a guest room. When Luke does use a word for hotel, he uses a different word. So, if he was actually saying hotel, why did he use the word for ‘guest room’?
During this time in Bethlehem, they had very tight quarters. Many of them lived in natural cave type dwellings. They would build out around the hillside. Using the cave as a base for the home (up to three rooms total). At night, families would bring their donkey and goat into one of the rooms to keep them from being stolen and to provide more warmth for the home. They would build into the floor a place for the animals to eat. A manger.
How we read it: “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
I want to read to you the passage from Luke from a Palestinian perspective. See if it makes sense. “And she gave birth to her
first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.” The (Palestinian) reader instinctively thinks, “Manger—oh—they are in the main family room. Why not the guest room?” The author instinctively replies, “Because there was no place for them in the guest room.” The reader concludes, “Ah, yes—well, the family room is more appropriate anyway.”
Regardless of the details of the story, the core message is the same is that The descendants of David descended to hay to lay the head of the King of kings.
Outside of the warmth of that cave…
There were shepherds watching their sheep in fields near Bethlehem. They too found caves at night to place the sheep. Shepherds were tough characters. Shepherding was also a lonely occupation, particularly at night, as a shepherd stood his watch, making sure sleeping sheep did not wake up and wander and that prowling predators did not attack and devour the sheep.
However, these weren’t just any sheep or just any shepherds. Not only was the birth of the messiah prophesied to be in Bethlehem, but it was also believed that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of the flock.’ The Migdal Eder was a watch tower in Bethlehem that lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. This tower was to watch over the flocks. The sheep in these flocks weren’t just any sheep, but it is well known that these sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem were destined for Temple-sacrifices.
The shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services, …when all of a sudden came the angelic announcement. Heaven and earth seemed to mingle, as suddenly an Angel stood before their dazzled eyes, while the outstreaming glory of the Lord seemed to enwrap them, as in a mantle of light.
The Messiah has come to seek and save that which was lost! What was lost? Humanity’s uninhibited relationship to heaven.
These shepherds had a huge job of watching sheep that would be used for the remission of sin. NOW, they heard the news that the Lamb of God was born. A Messiah. A King. If this was true, then the significance of the sheep they were watching would no longer exist!
Think of this! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and God doesn’t send an angel to Caesar or to King Herod to alert or let them know. He goes to the simplest. Shepherds.
“You will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Then, heaven erupts and spills out into the earthly realm. Angels over joyed by the thought of Humans relating to God one on one.
A choir (the armies of heaven) joins the original angel and they in unity begin to worship God. “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Alfred Edersheim stated, “Only once before had the words of Angels’ hymn fallen upon man’s ears, when Isaiah saw, Heaven’s high Temple open and the glory of God swept its courts, almost breaking down the trembling posts that bore its boundary gates. Now the same glory enwrapt the shepherds on Bethlehem’s plains.”
As soon as the Angels vanished, the shepherds said, “LET’S GO to find this baby!” Let’s go to Bethlehem and see God.
They are rummaging through the village trying to find the sign they were looking for (people in the room with the animals, baby laying in the manger) “Did you guys have a baby tonight? Is he sleeping in the manger?”
They found Him!
Edershiem went on to say:
How strange that on such slender thread, as the feeble throb of an Infant-life, the salvation of the world should hang—and no special care watch over its safety, no better shelter be provided it than a ‘stable,’ no other cradle than a manger!
And still it is ever so. On what slender thread has the continued life of the Church often seemed to hang; on what feeble throbbing that of every child of God—with no visible outward means to ward off danger, no home of comfort, no rest of ease. But, ‘Lo, children are Jehovah’s heritage!’—and: ‘So giveth He to His beloved in his sleep!’
Posted on December 16, 2013, in Sermon Notes, theology and tagged Alfred Edershiem, Edersheim, grotto, Luke 2:7, nativity sermon notes, no innkeeper in Luke, The Life and Times of Jesus, truth of Christmas. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.