December 24, 1972

Luke 2:1 20
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. It is a little town just a short distance from Jerusalem.

Bethlehem was a little town with a lot of history. It was called the city of Benjamin because this son of Jacob was
born there. It was the scene of the famous love story found in the book of Ruth. The beautiful Moabitish maiden
had gleaned in the fruitful fields that surrounded the little town. Boaz was a prosperous young bachelor in the town.
From their marriage later would come Jesse the father of David. This very area marked the birth of Israel's greatest
king, the man after God's own heart, David. Every faithful Hebrew was familiar with this history of Bethlehem. The
town was also the subject of prophecy. Micah had written concerning it, "But thou, Bethleham Ephra¬tah, though
thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel;
whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." ( Micah 5:2) Students of the writings of the prophets
were familiar with this prophetic promise given to the town.

But in the day when Jesus was born there, it was a very humble place. There was nothing impressive about the
outward appearance or the size of this typical little town. Its riches lay mainly in its history and tradition. But it is
within the con¬fines of this Judean town that the greatest event of all history takes place. Here the Savior is born!
Because of this notable event a number of people were attracted to Bethlehem. The first chapters of Luke and
Matthew make it sound as if both the highways and airways to the little town were crowded.

Our lives will be enriched if we will notice carefully the groups that were drawn to Bethlehem by that first Christmas.

In Matthew's account of the events at Bethlehem, Joseph is featured. In Luke's account of the same events, Mary's
part is more prominent. Just because others have wrongly exalted them would not justify our ignoring their
presence at the manger. Only one word can express the significance of their presence  commitment in truth unto

Luke records Mary's experience, "And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee,
named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's
name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his say¬ing, and cast in her mind what
manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not Mary: for thou has found favor with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be
great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father
David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.    And Mary
said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:27 33,38) This commitment
ultimately brought Mary to the manger.

Matthew records the experience of Joseph, "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make
her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of
the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy
wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his
name Jesus: for He shall save his people from their sins.    Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of
the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son:
and he called his name Jesus." (Matthew 1:19 21, 24 25)

This commitment ultimately brought Joseph to the manger. Neither Joseph nor Mary had to be there. Either of them
could have refused the call of God. They could have counted the cost too high. Instead they prized the shame,
seized it like a valuable treasure and committed themselves to the will of God.

God chose the shepherds to receive a special privilege. They were not a very like¬ly group to receive such a
privilege. They were a despised group most often associated with the bottom of the social ladder in our Lord's Day.

It may well be, however, that this was a special group of shepherds. Somewhere near Jerusalem there was a group
of shepherds that kept the temple flock. They shep¬herded the sheep that would be used in the sacrifices of the
temple. Do you suppose these men who received the good news from the angel could have been this group?

The angel's message came during the night. "There was in the same country shep¬herds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Pear not: for, behold, I bring
you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling
clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host prais¬ing God,
and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass as the
angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shep¬herds, said one to another, Let us now go even unto
Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with
haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger." (Luke 2:8 16)

These men needed a Savior! They were deeply aware of their need. This word from the angel sent them hurrying
toward the manger looking for a Savior. Their search was not in vain.

No consideration of the Christmas story is complete without consideration of the angels. The heavenly air lanes
were busy around Bethlehem for awhile.

They were doing two things primarily. They were informing people by giving an¬nouncement of the Good News. An
angel Gabriel tells Mary.
An angel tells Joseph.
An angel tells the shepherds.
An angel tells Zechariah.
It would be well for some of us to pick up this angelic ministry! There are a lot of people who are still in the dark
about what happened that night. Why not tell them?

But the angels also sang, "Glory to God". Luke records it like this. "And sudden¬ly 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, good will
toward men." (Luke 2:13¬14)

Thank God somebody was there to sing. The choir from the temple in Jerusalem should have been there. If the
people of God had been in touch with what God was doing, they would have been there. But they were very much
out of it, so God sends a choir from heaven to sing. Who will sing this Christmas?

The Wise men were late in arriving. The little family had already moved into a house when they arrived. They had
traveled a long distance from "the east", probably from Persia. They arrived in Jerusalem asking, "Where is he that
is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2) After
spending same time with Herod, they learn from the scribes the King is to be born in Bethlehem. Matthew continues
his account, "When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went
before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they re¬joiced with
exceeding great joy. And when they were came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and
fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and
frankincense, and myrrh.'' (Matthew 2:9 12) They came a long way looking for a King, but their trip was not in vain.
They found Him to be just the King they wanted to see. To Him they presented their worthy gifts. Will anyone
worship Him this Christmas?

Matthew records the last group attracted to the manger. "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise
men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts
thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.''
(V.16) The soldiers were the last to come. They are sent by the fear and hatred of Herod. This same spirit of
antagonism is in the hearts of some this Christmas, Will you worship Him or seek to destroy Him. How will you come
to the manger this Christmas?