A sermon from Luke 2:1-7
Two thousand years ago, the most powerful man in the world was Caesar Augustus and Caesar made a decree that everyone within the Roman Empire had to be registered. In order to register, however, you had to return to your hometown. Joseph, the man engaged to Mary, lived in the region Galilee and the town of Nazareth, which was over 60 miles from his hometown of Bethlehem. Even though his wife was pregnant and in need of care, there would be no exceptions to be made in his circumstances. Joseph would have to make the trip south to Bethlehem in order to be registered and his wife would have to come along with him.
Now, for those of you who are familiar with the story of David, you will know that he grew up in Bethlehem – which is why Luke calls it “the city of David.” But don’t be fooled by that terminology – Bethlehem was not some thriving metropolis. Our largest cities grow by tens of thousands of people every year, but Bethlehem, 1000 years after the time of David, was still just a modest city. It was into this modest locale that the Son of God would enter into the world. The amazing thing about this was that it was all part of God’s marvelous plan. Centuries earlier, this had been prophesied. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2
As these events unfolded, they were not by random chance. They were all part of God’s sovereign plan right from the beginning. The world is constantly telling us that everything happens by chance, including life itself. We are simply the product of random mutations that have evolved for billions of years. But everything in the natural world sends us a very different message. As we look around us, we see order and design. We see creativity and magnificent beauty. The only reasonable explanation is that what we see is God’s handy-work – His remarkable creation. And we clearly see His sovereignty in the Nativity story. It was God’s plan all along that His Son, the Savior of the world, would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David.
It is likely that there were a large number of people who were in the same situation as Joseph. At one time, perhaps they had lived in Bethlehem or had family there, but for whatever reason, they moved away and now would have to return. After Caesar issued this decree, the town activity would have picked up considerably. With all these people returning in order to register, it was not surprising that Mary and Joseph could not find any room at the Inn. You might be wondering, what about Joseph’s family and relatives? Surely they could house them or find a place for them? But such a scenario was not meant to be – there was simply no room, especially for a family of modest means.
The situation was further complicated when Mary’s pregnancy moved along so fast that the time came for her to give birth. There would be no place for pickiness – they would have to find a place and find it fast and it would have to be a non-conventional place. The place they found is probably the last place in the world that you or I would think of – baby Jesus was born in an animal stable. We are not specifically told that in the text, but we can infer it from Luke’s use of the word “manger.” A manger was a trough – the place that the animals drank from. Let’s think about this for a moment – the birth of the Son of God – the Savior of the world – the birth of the most important person in history, took place in the most humble setting imaginable.
And we wonder: how could this be? How could God’s very own Son, be born in an animal stable? Why didn’t they make room for Mary and Joseph someplace else? From our human perspective these are legitimate questions. But if we take a quick history tour over the past 2000 years, we would see that seldom has there ever been room for Jesus in the world. Over the past 2000 years, mankind has been doing its best to push Jesus out of everything – the result is that we have no room for Jesus anywhere. Let’s take a quick tour of our current situation.
There is no room for Jesus in the courts today. We have determined that there is no need for the Divine law in our justice systems. We are rational beings, so we think, and therefore, God has been left out of the law courts. What is the result? The result is little, if any regard for human life or morality. We have killed millions and millions of babies and called it “choice.”
There is no room for Jesus in our schools today. Our children are taught to be suspicious of anyone who claims to know “the truth.” Any professor that goes against the theory of Darwinian evolution puts their career in jeopardy. And there is little room for the very name “Jesus” in any educational curriculum across our land.
There is no room for Jesus in our government today. Aside from trying to get a few votes from the evangelical demographic, our government officials show no regard for the Son of God. They govern in a godless, immoral way, and constantly invite God’s judgment.
There is no room for Jesus even at Christmas. Ironic as it is, the celebration of the birth of our Savior takes second place to a fictional character that wears a red suit and has a long beard and gives kids whatever they want. We don’t say Merry Christmas anymore – we say “happy holidays.”
There is no room for Jesus in our families today. Instead of valuing this God-ordained institution, our society has placed its emphasis elsewhere – primarily on “the self.” As a result, the family unit has broken down and our whole society is suffering, as a result. The single parent has almost become the norm and the nuclear family has become a novel idea from long days past.
There is no room for Jesus in our conversation today. The mere mention of his name brings feelings of hatred to some, but indifference to most. He might have been a good moral teacher centuries ago, they say, but certainly not the Son of God. We often hesitate to bring Jesus up in our conversations for fear of “offending” someone.
There is no room for Jesus in our busy lives today. We have things to do, people to meet, and places to see. How could we possibly fit Jesus into all that? If we do have a little extra time here and there, we might be able to fit him in, but it had better not inconvenience us, or so we reason.
Finally, there is no room for Jesus in our churches today. Rather than affirm and teach the exclusivity of Jesus Christ – that He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to God, we dumb down the teaching of the bible.
So you see, this world that we live in, is not much different than Bethlehem at the time of Christ. We have pushed Jesus out of our country, our families, our churches, and our lives. As you know the results have been devastating. But let me put it to you – is there room in your heart for Jesus? Is there room in your heart for Son of God? Just because the world has pushed Jesus aside, does not mean that you must do the same. You might be wondering; how can I make room in my heart for Jesus. Perhaps your heart is filled with anger, despair, shame and sufferings from long past. How can I make room for Jesus when I am so broken, you ask? Well, I can assure that there is always room for Jesus. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Jesus can forgive you and make you whole again.
Let me share with you the gospel. The word gospel means “good news” and the gospel is the greatest news in the world. This news is nothing like the news we watch on TV or read about on the internet. This news is actually “good news.” But before we get to the good news, we must understand the bad news first.
You and me and everyone on planet earth is a sinner. We have fallen short of God’s perfect law and now the wrath of God is upon us. So even if you think you are a good person, you are really not. The Bible says that no one is good but God alone. The Bible also teaches that the wages of sin is death. So the result of our sin is certain death and ultimate separation from God. With that in mind, let’s get to the good news part.
God is love. And God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ. The nativity story tells how Jesus was brought in the world. We sometimes call this the incarnation – how God became flesh and dwelt among us. But there is more to it than that – Jesus grew up and became a man and was ultimately crucified on a cross. You ask, how could the Son of God be crucified? The answer is that God the Father actually “gave” God the Son, over to death. Why would God the Father do such a thing? The answer lies in His love. God knew that because we were dead in our trespasses and sins, the only way to bring life to us was through His Son. So Jesus took our place on the cross and by his blood sacrifice, we have forgiveness of sins.
The only way to explain this is grace – amazing grace. There is nothing that you can do to save yourself. The bible says that it is by grace that we are saved. It is not by good deeds or by our good works. Rather, it is by grace, through faith and the message of the gospel is the greatest news you will ever hear. But how can I receive that forgiveness, you might be wondering?
First off, you must believe that Jesus is who He said He was – the Son of God. This is what is called “faith.” Second, you must trust Him for your salvation. Along with that, you must repent and turn from your sins, and follow Jesus. Perhaps at this point in your life, you feel like you have tried everything. You’ve tried to be a good person, you’ve tried to live a good life, but you’ve never truly been satisfied. You feel like your life is empty and without meaning. If that’s where you’re at, you are actually in a great position because you know that you are helpless in your own strength and in great need of Christ.
I want to assure you that there is room at the foot of the cross for you. Don’t be like the rest of the world – they have no place for Jesus. But is there room in your heart for Jesus? I can assure you that if you take this step of faith, the road ahead will not be easy, but it will be entirely worth it. Is there room in your heart for Jesus?
I preached this sermon December 24, 2013, at our Christmas Eve service. It was inspired in part by a sermon Charles Spurgeon preached December 21, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.