“Now, the birth of Jesus came about in this way….” (Matthew 1:18).
Do you like a true-life adventure story? This one is the best. It’s found in only four chapters in the Bible: Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.
You like genealogies? Then check out the birth narratives about our Lord Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-14 and also Luke 3:21-38.
You like mysteries? Try to figure out how those two lists of ancestors works out for the lineage of Jesus. If you finally give up, then (and only then) go to a commentary written by a Bible-believing scholar. Your church library probably has several.
You are a history student? Then check out Luke 2:1-3 where “the beloved physician” gives the historical setting for the birth of our Lord. Then, move up one chapter and see how Luke does the same thing for the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry some three decades later.
You love conspiracies? (There’s a lot of that going around today. Anything involving Hilary Clinton. Was General Patton murdered? What about President Trump’s claims?) Then, check out King Herod in Matthew chapter 2 and notice his murderous rampage against anyone who appears to be a threat, even little babies. What a monster. And notice how the Lord Jesus sent the Magi with funds (“gold”) to finance the trip of the little Holy Family to Egypt, just ahead of Herod’s legions. They slipped away just in time.
You are a woman and you love babies? (I’m a man and I love babies. But concerning the pregnancy/birth process, we men are on the outside looking in.) Then, do not miss the entire first chapter of Luke. It begins with the announcement/birth of John the Baptist and moves seamlessly into the announcement and birth of his cousin, the Lord Jesus. It’s pretty special. Your heart goes out to Mary. Bear in mind that the author, Luke, is a physician himself.
You love old people or (ahem) happen to be one yourself? Don’t miss Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. Simeon had been told a secret by the Holy Spirit, that he would live to see the Messiah. Then, as Mary and Joseph entered the temple for His dedication, the Holy Spirit nudged him. “All right, Simeon. This is the moment you have been waiting for!” Who among us does not resonate with pleasure at his exclamation, “Now, Lord, you can call me home! I’ve seen it all!” The blessed Anna, on the other hand, just seems to have been in the right place at the right time.
Do you love Bible prophecy? It’s throughout this wonderful story. In Matthew 1:22-23, we have the connection of “Jesus” with the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. And in Matthew 2:5, the theologians advise King Herod that according to Micah 5:2 the Christ will be born in Bethlehem. Or see how the song of Mary (Luke 1:46ff) shows her acquaintance with Psalm 18.
Are you a guy who loves doing macho things like going on sudden fishing/hunting trips or mission excursions to difficult parts of the world? Then, take a look at the Magi of Matthew 2. If ever there was a “guy thing” in Scripture, this is it. A group of men in some distant eastern country who were studying the heavens came to the conclusion–no one is sure how–that “the King of the Jews” was to be born in this tiny kingdom. And they decided to come and see for themselves! These men put their lives on hold, convinced their wives they would be home in time for the children’s birthdays, and at great expense and incredible hardship started out on a trek to (don’t miss this!) follow a star! Meanwhile, back at home, you can imagine how the wives are taking this. We shake our heads at the daring of these men and so admire how God used them. (And can you imagine the stories they told on their return!)
Are you a nobody wondering how God could ever use a cipher like you? You have come to the right place, my friend. Check out Luke 1:26ff where the angel Gabriel informs Mary of Nazareth that God has chosen her for hazardous duty. Her responses come down to variations of “Who me?” And do not miss her song, recorded in Luke 1:40-55, which reeks of praise to God for choosing to bless the lowly and the nobodies. The shepherds of Luke 2 are unnamed.
Are you a ruler impressed with your own power? You’re in this story, too. There is Herod, that bum, in Matthew 2. And do not miss Luke 2:2 where Caesar Augustus, the mightiest ruler of the day, receives only honorable mention. God is clearly not all that impressed by earthly rulers. “A king’s heart is a water channel in the Lord’s hand; He turns it wherever He chooses” (Proverbs 21:1).
Are you an hourly worker with a poor reputation, perhaps a spotted record, and little prospects for success? You can identify with the shepherds outside Bethlehem (Luke 2:8ff) who were selected by Heaven as the first welcoming committee for the Son of God. How special is that? (Scholars tell us that first-century shepherds were a class of rejects as a rule and that their testimony was unacceptable in court. And yet, the Lord Jesus calls Himself our Good Shepherd. See John 10.)
Are you burdened with guilt and wondering how you got your life in such a mess? “He shall save His people from their sins,” the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21. And that angel or another one–it’s impossible to tell–told Bethlehem’s shepherds, “I bring you good news of a great joy. For unto you is born today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). There is a Savior, my friend. His name is Jesus and you have come at a great time! Now is the time and Jesus is the One (see Acts 4:12). Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! (Acts 16:30-31).
Are you a preacher wondering how to get yet another sermon out of the Christmas story, one that has not been preached to death, maybe one with a fresh angle? Bite your tongue, friend. You’re not publishing the National Enquirer here, digging up a fresh scandal for every issue. You’re proclaiming the old, old story from Heaven, and your message is as good as it’s possible to get. Tell the old story. Those sitting before you on Sunday are not looking for a fresh spin on the ancient narrative. They want to know more about what God did, what it meant, and what it means today. Open your Bible to Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, then get on your knees with it open before you, and sit at the Master’s feet for an hour or two. You’ll get sermons enough for a year of Christmases.
Are you new to the Christian faith? Then, welcome, my friend. We hope you will not be put off by all the cultural things our society does to piggy-back on the Christmas story. This is not about Santa or elves, not about Scrooge or Tiny Tim, not about George Bailey or Macy’s sales, and not about Frosty or Rudolph. It’s about God so loving the world that He stepped into history and became a man who preached Heaven’s message and died for humanity’s iniquity.
–It’s about Hebrews 2:14-15. “Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, He also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.”
–It’s about 2 Timothy 1:10. “…the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
–And, in particular, it’s about Galatians 4:4. “But when the fulness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
It’s for you and for me. It’s for “all the people” (Luke 2:10).
It’s the best news ever. We praise His holy name.