Bible Study for Dec. 23: The Angels’ Announcement

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Luke 2:1-14
Jim Duggan, Pastor
Bellevue Baptist Church, Macon

The birth of Jesus is the climatic event in human history. This one event is so significant, it has become the standard by which we divide time – BC and AD.  But the birth of Jesus was not a coincidence or accident. Too many things had to line up to make it happen.

Luke opens the chapter with the phrase, “in those days.” That phrase indicates to us the sovereign working of God. Not just any days . . .  those days. In Galatians 4:4, Paul reminds us that God sent Jesus at just the right time, “when the time came to completion. We need to remember that God planned the redemption of sinners through His Son before the foundation of the world. The events recorded in Luke 2 remind us that the salvation of sinners is so important to God that He will intervene in everyday life to bring it to pass.

WHO God Moved

Augustus was Emperor from 31 BC to AD 14. Quirinius served to terms as Syrian governor, 6-4 BC and AD 6-9. He conducted a tax and census during both of his terms. The birth of Jesus happened at some point during his first tax and census.

The census served two purposes. First, it put all males on record to that the government could collect taxes from them. Second, it provided a list of names from which the Emperor could draft reinforcements for His army.

Because he was a descendant of David, Joseph had to register in David’s hometown of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God used a government mandate to align people to fulfill His Word. 

WHEN God Moved

With the primitive modes of first century transportation, travel was certainly not advised for a woman at her due date.  Joseph would not have traveled to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife had Quirinius not decreed the census. 

Again, Luke uses language to point to the sovereign timing of God. In verse 6, he writes, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” Literally, in the original, that phrase reads, “the days became fulfilled for her to give birth.” To provide for our salvation, God arranged for the birth of His Son to take place at the right place and at the right time. 

To some it would seem an inconvenient coincidence that Quirinius would happen to order a census at Mary’s due date. But God does not operate in coincidences. He does things on purpose. He arranged the right place (Micah 5:2) at the right time (Galatians 4:4).

WHERE God Moved

Bethlehem was a small village about 5 miles SW of Jerusalem. Jacob buried his wife Rachel in the outskirts of the village, known then as Ephrathah. Bethlehem also served as the setting for the book of Ruth and was the hometown of her famous great grandson King David.  

The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Jesus said that He came to be the Bread of Life.  The sovereignty of God from the beginning of the world set in motion all that was necessary for the house of bread to produce the Bread of Life.   

When widowed Naomi returned to her hometown of Bethlehem, she brought her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth. Ruth married Boaz and their family line produced King David. God promised His Deliver would come from David’s line. All of these seemingly coincidental occurrences were actually intentional interventions by God to accomplish His task of redemption.

How God Moved

One of the most striking facets of Jesus’ incarnation lies in the simplicity of the people and places God used. Though Jesus is the King of Kings, Mary and Joseph did not come from a royal family. They were common people of their day, their reputations somewhat tainted by Mary’s unexpected pregnancy.

God did not plan the birth of His Son in the majestic city of Jerusalem, but instead in the small village of Bethlehem. The prophet Micah even declared that Bethlehem was “small among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2). The village may have seemed insignificant to others in that day, but God chose it as the birthplace of Jesus.

Even Jesus’ birth announcement came to the simplest of first century workers – shepherds. These men were unskilled laborers who were hired to be essentially night watchmen over sheep they did not own. God chose to announce good news of great joy to common men. The wonder of the Christmas story is that God worked throughout the ages of history to redeem the lost like you and me. And any who will believe.

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