We arrive at the birth of Jesus while the author nestles us comfortably within the confines of history. I’m in the middle of reading Killing Jesus and while it isn’t one of my favorite books, there are aspects of history that are lifted up and emphasized. I guess I see the book more as a historical Dan Brown than probably most. But Luke, our Gospel historian, places Jesus squarely within the time of Emperor Augustus. Vs. 7 gives us all there is about the birth. Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room for them in an inn. It does sound cold and disconcerting to imagine that people would not make room for a woman in labor in their midst. But in fact, I would think that a woman in labor would probably not want to be in the midst of people but rather maybe in the quiet of a stable where there is some privacy and where only the animals would be.
The angels appearing to the shepherds is one of the favorites of every Christmas pageant. The fact that Jesus appears first to the shepherds, the lowliest of all people on the earth, is significant. Jesus could have chosen to have the wise men see him first, but instead we find those who were on the lowest rung of the ladder that were given the honor of seeing him. That is how God works. I do believe that in Jesus’ teachings he has a preference for the poor as we see played out in the beatitudes and in other places in Scripture.
Mary and Joseph were a traditional family who followed the religious practices of that day. Even though their first child was born in a very unorthodox fashion, they still felt obligated to follow through in what was required of parents in that day. They had to bring Jesus after 8 days to be circumcised, and they did. It is at this point that he was called Jesus. And then when Mary’s time was over for her recovery and she was able to make it to the temple in Jerusalem within the 40 days a required by the law, it is then that their son’s status as Savior becomes even better defined. Both Simeon and Anna proclaim the fact that the Holy Spirit rested upon this child.
We then find the only childhood story of Jesus. It is one where we see his love for his Father’s house, which would be the temple. Of course Mary and Joseph were worried to death when they thought he was lost forever, and there is a side to the story that makes one think of a mischievous child, but then again it is Jesus. Vs. 47 tells us that all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. So apparently people were asking him questions. Maybe it was the religious leaders of the day. And people were amazed at his answers and his understanding. I’ve run across a few children who grew into youth and one now is on track to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church. When I first met them and spoke to them about God it was obvious that they were special. Hear me well, I am not saying that they are better, just they have a grasp of the Almighty that children don’t normally have and have carried that into adulthood. Jesus would have gone well beyond any earthly examples we can conjure.