The most overlooked part of the Christmas story

“Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be to all the people! For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you: you will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

In telling and retelling the story of the shepherds and the angels in the fields outside Bethlehem, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important.

We picture those humble, working-class shepherds…given the most boring assignment in the world, to spend the night watching sheep who are not going to be doing anything or going anywhere anyway…. when suddenly the Angel of the Lord materializes, hanging in the sky out in front of them, and tells them–what else?–to “Fear not!” We join the shepherds in awe of the skyful of angels singing the excelsis deo, and then we run with them into Bethlehem as they flit from stable to stable in search of the one containing a young family with a newborn baby.  They worship, then depart to spread the news.

Does anyone ever stop to reflect seriously on what the angel said to the shepherds in that opening statement?

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10 things about the Christmas story you may have missed

They were not “kings” from the east and there wasn’t three of them (as far as anyone knows). And when they arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus were not still in the stable, but in a house, contrary to half the Christmas cards that will be arriving at your house.

Furthermore, there’s no indication cattle were in that stable or anywhere nearby. In fact, the only thing that leads us to believe Jesus was born in a stable is that Luke 2:7 tells us Mary laid the Baby in a manger, a feeding trough.

But you knew all this.

And you knew that all of this was predicted through the centuries by God’s prophets. We particularly treasure the promises of Isaiah 7:17 (“Behold a virgin shall conceive….”) and 9:6-7 (“For unto us a child is born….”), as well as Micah 5:2 (“Bethlehem…out of you shall come forth One to be Ruler over Israel…”).

And I expect you knew that, contrary to the Christmas hymn “The First Noel,” the shepherds in Bethlehem’s fields did not “looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far.” (Modern hymnals have revised that line to read “For all to see there was a star….”)

But, allow me to point out some aspects of this wonderful story it’s possible you might have missed. There is no particular order intended.

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Jesus was nothing if not logical

“Some of the scribes were sitting here and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk?’” (Mark 2:6-9).

One of the most helpful courses I took in college was logic. The ability to think clearly and rationally about complex issues is a wonderful asset for anyone.

It helps me to realize our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing if not logical. Jesus clearly loved logic. (That probably provokes a “well, duh” response from readers.  The Lord Jesus not only loved truth, He claimed to be Truth itself!)

Again and again in Scripture Jesus shows Himself the Master of logic as He lays the issues before His hearers in orderly fashion and asks them to think about them rationally.

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Loving Jesus here, having Him feel it there

If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).  He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me (John 14:21).  If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (John 14:23).  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love (John 15:10).  You are my friends if you do whatever I command you (John 15:14).

Anyone see a trend in these verses? He wants us to love Him and tells us how: Obedience. 

With that in mind, the question before us is this: Is it possible to do something so loving, so affectionate, so Christ-honoring here on earth that Jesus will feel it in Heaven’s Throneroom?

Can I do something loving for Jesus here and have Him feel the love there?

Yes.  Absolutely.

We direct your attention to the woman of Luke 7:36ff.

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Call it what you like, God calls it sin.

He who has little thoughts of sin never has big thoughts of God.  –Anonymous

Michigan State’s medical advisor to the nation’s champion acrobats has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual transgressions.  (Update: More and more accusers keep surfacing with lurid stories of the crimes of this man, and judges keep adding years to his sentence.  He’d have to live several lifetimes to serve the complete sentence.)

Hundreds of young women have brought charges and accusations against him. They spoke through tears, telling how he ruined their lives.  To no one’s surprise, the doctor seemed unmoved by it all.  Anyone who would do such a thing has long ago hardened his heart toward God and rejected any thought of compassion toward his victims.  While the doctor did not deny touching these young girls, he explained, “I touched them medically, not sexually.”

Yeah, right.  The women–and the judge–thought otherwise.

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What the kingdom of God looks like: You won’t need a tape measure

“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is.’  For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

Those who believe that every human is indwelt by God–and therefore, everyone is divine–love to quote (misquote) this passage.  “The kingdom of God is in you.”

“I have god in me,” they will say, and reference this saying from our Lord.

The clear meaning of this teaching is that rather than God’s kingdom being something earthly, visible, and measurable, it’s spiritual and inner, and therefore invisible and immeasurable.

Now, look at the context.

Staying with the earlier portion of this 17th chapter of Luke, a marvelous collection of teachings, we come out with something like the following:

The Kingdom of God is seen when the strong help the weak (17:1-2), when the faithful minister to the unfaithful with high standards of righteousness and prompt forgiveness to the penitent (17:3-4), when the Lord’s workers serve faithfully and humbly expecting no recognition nor earthly reward (17:7-10), and when we are driven by gratitude to the feet of Jesus (17:11-19).

Or, put another way: Wherever the kingdom of God is, look for faith in the Lord Jesus at work.

Is that visible?  Is it measurable?

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