Luke 2: The Christmas Story
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[d] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[e] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[f] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[g] took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[h] in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[i] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna[j] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[k] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents[l] saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[m] 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,[n] and in divine and human favor.
As I read and re-read this chapter, three words kept circling around my head. Joy, awe & respect.
Joy is a wonderful feeling and something that is so embedded within us. When we were created, joy was in us. Unfortunately, over time we lose sight of it because of circumstances and experiences that cloud it. So often we settle for happiness. While happiness is lovely, it is temporary, not permanent. It is fleeting and when we say we just want to be happy, we are really saying that we want a quick moment of happiness instead of the deep joy that is within us. When we use happiness as a barometer we don’t really dig any deeper, therefore, losing out on all the things that God had put within us when we were created.
Happiness is situation dependent; it requires the perfect conditions. Joy transcends our situation.
The birth of Jesus is not the perfect conditions for happiness. Very little about it is ‘ideal’. And yet, Mary and Joseph were joyful because not only had God spoken to them, they had obeyed and they had a child.
It didn’t matter that it was in a stable. Joy surpasses our surroundings.
I also loved the reaction of the shepherds, they were giddy with excitement. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” I honestly get a lump in my throat when I really think through the birth of Christ and I find myself wholeheartedly believing that God loved us so much that he sent his only son and that he used Mary and Joseph, both loyal, honest and obedient people to bring him into the world. I cannot express how much that leaves me speechless. Christmas leaves me awestruck. Being in awe of Jesus can alter how we see the world because we desire to be like Him and to love like Him. But with that, we need to not turn our eyes away from what is happening in the world. This is where we need to step up. To show integrity, humility, grace, compassion, love and respect. This is where the birth of Jesus, the joy of him coming to earth and the awe that we have in God can start a new way of looking at life. Instead of allowing joy, awe and respect to be fleeting experiences, we need to learn to remain in them; to allow them to become our way of life; to let them shape what we do and who we are.
Respect is something that I value dearly and strongly. When we look at Jesus’s life, we see respect. When we read how Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple after searching for him we see this lovely family moment. Mary and Joseph were, of course, anxious as they were unable to find Jesus but I love the simultaneous innocence and boldness of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t disrespecting his parents but he was so close to his Father that he was in awe and respect of Him and wanted to know more and more. He knew his mission here on earth. I love that it says twice in the chapter that “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” She knew who her Son was and really trusted him because she trusted God. Though there were so many moments when she wasn’t sure of all that was happening, she simply trusted.
“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” Jesus respected his parents and he also respected his Father. He was obedient and loyal to the end.
Another year and another Christmas season is upon us. We have the carols, the mince pies and the adorable children’s plays. It is truly a wonderful time of year celebrating a wonderful story. The question I keep asking myself is can we carry the essence of the story and bring that through the year and not allow it to fade away?
How do we discover Mary & Joseph’s joy in a way that stops us being slaves to ‘happiness’?
How do we learn to be in awe in a way that stops us from practicing our faith out of obligation?
How do we learn to respect God and others with love, faithfulness and boldness?
Susie Keegan is a creative, a font nerd, a graphic designer and the Church of Ireland Chaplain to Dublin Institute of Technology with 11 years experience in youth work. Use ‘Comic Sans’ in the wrong context and you’ll feel her wrath! Being an author on this blog has really pushed her comfort zone and she is very happy to be part of this community.