Christmas JOY: Stories with Luke
Pastor Terry Inman
Today is Jesus’ 2049 birthday! Give or take a few years depending on which calendar we use. No matter what, it’s a lot of candles on a cake.
Jesus is a lot older than two millennia. He exists eternally with the Father.
His human presence was only a brief encounter with our space and time.
Christmas is our celebration His earth-day. The day Jesus was born as, “Emmanuel-God with us.” (Isa 7.11 NIV) We call it the incarnation.
Today in “Luke’s Story” we will visit Jesus’ first few days as a Jewish newborn. The Bethlehem birthing shelter had probably been used for lambing season. Sheep also gave birth in a makeshift bed of hay.
Poor shepherds were the first guests at the arrival of the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world? They didn’t go back to the job the same. Luke says, they and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen, just the way they’d been told!
Fast-forward eight days. Jewish birth rituals touched even God’s son.
His parents were devout orthodox Jews. Jesus’ roots and our roots are Jewish! Paul says we Gentiles were “grafted” into the family tree!
On day eight every Jewish boy was identified by an anatomical surgery called circumcision. I won’t go into detail this is a “G” rated message—but Luke a Gentile physician but very familiar with this Jewish signature.
Along with this procedure the baby was named. Luke says, “When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.” (Luke 2.21NIV)
This is the second baby in the Christmas story named by an angel. It took a while for a couple of our kids to name their little angels. It’s a big deal. We research baby names. We find out what’s popular at the time.
Sometimes they’re named after relatives. That can get dicey with more than one grandparent. We got three of our baby names out of the King David story in the bible—David, his father Jesse and Samuel the priest.
Names had meaning. Jesus “Yeshua” means to save, rescue, or deliver)
Gabriel gave Mary the name when he revealed her supernatural pregnancy.
Joseph got his instructions in a dream. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1.20 NIV)
God labeled his personal visit to earth “Savior” for one purpose. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4.12 NIV)
A month after the Jesus was named and circumcised, His parents packed up and headed back to Jerusalem where he was presented in the Temple.
Luke says, “When the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: “Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law. (Luke 2.22-24 MSG)
Probably for health reasons birth mothers went through a prescribed month of waiting before going public especially in temple worship. This was one of many “cleansing rites or rituals” of the ancient Hebrews.
First-born males were also to be offered to the Lord. Jesus who came from the Father was being re-dedicated to His Father. We continue to practice this tradition. We dedicate our selves and our babies to the Lord.
We don’t do infant baptism—that comes at an age when we personally acknowledge Jesus as our Lord. The bible says, “repent and be baptized”.
Dedication is simply celebrating God’s gift of Children. It’s also committing to raise them in to know and love their Father God.
Part of this Hebrew dedication ceremony involved sacrifice. The poor could offer inexpensive doves or pigeons. This is one more indication that Jesus was born and raised in very humble circumstances.
As Jesus was being dedicated in the Temple ceremony, Simeon a senior servant who was prayerfully expecting the coming Messiah got his wish.
Luke writes, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2.25-26 NIV)
Hundreds of years earlier Isaiah had prophesied the “consolation” or comfort of Israel. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40.1-2 NIV)
There is something very comforting about newborns. God sent his Christmas present wrapped in “swaddling cloths”. These were bands of fabric wrapped around infants to warm, comfort and quiet them.
The word Luke uses for “consolation” (paraklesis) is close to the term for the Holy Spirit, (paraklete) the helper, comforter, or our advocate.Luke mentions the Holy Spirit’s supportive activity here in at least three ways.
The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon. The Holy Spirit revealed that he would live to see the savior born. The Holy Spirit moved him to the Temple. When he saw the infant Jesus he held him in his arms and blessed him.
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2. 27-32 NIV)
For Simeon the devout and righteous man to “see” Jesus was to “see salvation” for all of humanity. This is more of Luke’s details that confirm the mission of Jesus Christ, to save us from our sinfulness.
Simeon held Jesus in his arms. He blessed the baby and the parents. He prophesied a hopeful but also painful future. Luke says Mary and Joseph “marveled” at what was said about their little Jesus.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2.33-35 NIV)
Mothers want the best for their children. They want everyone to admire their offspring. But not everyone accepts Jesus. Both Paul and Peter talk about Jesus being a building stone that people trip over. They trip because they refuse to trust and obey Him!
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1.11-12 NIV)
Today I want to give you an opportunity to believe and receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. That is why he came. There is noting more comforting than that. Let me finish with this final encounter.
Also in the Temple for the dedication was an elderly widow named Anna. Luke says she was a prophetess. He mentions her Jewish ancestry and that she had been widowed after only seven years of marriage. At eighty-seven was she was still serving in the Temple. Luke says, “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. (vs. 36-37)
Her presence is another prophetic encounter. “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2.38 NIV) God still comforts us with his Spirit’s presence now!
There are some extra biblical stories about Jesus childhood, but Luke wraps it up with what we would all like to see our parenting accomplish.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2.39 -40 NIV)
God was born into the humble conditions of our humanity. He was also raised like any other Jewish boy. He grew up physically, emotionally and spiritually just like we do when we invite “the savior” to live in us!