Who did God invite to witness the most important birth on earth? We might be surprised.
Let’s understand that worldly importance is unimportant to God. He has very different values.
We will look at Luke 2:1-40, God’s guest list and peace on earth.
Luke 2:1 About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. 2 These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. 4 So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.
5 Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, 6 and while they were there, 7 she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. 9 All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11 This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”
13 Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said: 14 “Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.” 15 After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.
17 When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. 18 Everyone listened and was surprised. 19 But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.
20 As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.
21 Eight days later Jesus' parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands. And they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told Mary when he promised she would have a baby.
22 The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born. They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord, 23 just as the Law of the Lord says, “Each first-born baby boy belongs to the Lord.” 24 The Law of the Lord also says that parents have to offer a sacrifice, giving at least a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So that is what Mary and Joseph did.
25 At this time a man named Simeon was living in Jerusalem. Simeon was a good man. He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel. God’s Spirit came to him 26 and told him that he would not die until he had seen Christ the Lord. 27 When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to do what the Law of Moses says should be done for a new baby, the Spirit told Simeon to go into the temple. 28 Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God,
29 “Lord, I am your servant, and now I can die in peace, because you have kept your promise to me. 30 With my own eyes I have seen what you have done to save your people, 31 and foreign nations will also see this. 32 Your mighty power is a light for all nations, and it will bring honor to your people Israel.” 33 Jesus' parents were surprised at what Simeon had said. 34 Then he blessed them and told Mary, “This child of yours will cause many people in Israel to fall and others to stand. The child will be like a warning sign. Many people will reject him, 35 and you, Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger. But all this will show what people are really thinking.”
36 The prophet Anna was also there in the temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. In her youth she had been married for seven years, but her husband died. 37 And now she was eighty-four years old. Night and day she served God in the temple by praying and often going without eating. 38 At that time Anna came in and praised God. She spoke about the child Jesus to everyone who hoped for Jerusalem to be set free.
39 After Joseph and Mary had done everything that the Law of the Lord commands, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child Jesus grew. He became strong and wise, and God blessed him.
Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
Bethlehem (vs 1-4)
Old Testament prophecies predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). How was this to happen, when Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth. Augustus, the pagan Emperor of Rome demanded a census and just like Cyrus before him (Isaiah 44:28, Isaiah 45:4) did God’s will without knowing it. This brought the family to Bethlehem.
Stable (vs 5-7)
The super wealthy may flatter themselves they have the best life. Heaven may disagree. Jesus’ birth was in the most humble of circumstances. God owns everything but He understands true values. Messiah was to be born in a stable. The most important birth of human history did not take place in wealth and power, but amidst the lowliest of circumstances.
Shepherds (vs 8-20)
A holy angel did not announce the birth of the Christ to the wealthy and powerful, but to humble, unwashed and unkempt shepherds. Disrespected on earth, they were shown incredible respect by heaven! It’s not the size of the group hearing the Gospel that matters. A chorus of angels joined them in praise and worship. Then the shepherds became witnesses.
Circumcision (vs 21-24)
Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day according the Old Testament law, a day when circumcision is safer because blood-clotting levels are high. Firstborn were claimed by God after the Exodus. Because Jesus was a firstborn, he would be redeemed by offering a sacrifice. The family’s poverty is gauged by the offering, which was the smallest allowed under the law.
Simeon (vs 25-35)
Simeon was an elderly, righteous man. God granted his last wish to see Christ before he died. The only status that heaven was interested in was not his wealth or job title, but that he was righteous and devout. His words put to music were for most of Christian history a popular song to end church services, the Nunc Dimittis.
Anna (vs 36-38)
Anna was an 84 year old prophet. She had been married only seven years and was a widow most of her life. Anna served God in the temple in a very important prayer ministry and had the privilege of announcing Christ. Her only status was not worldly but what heaven was interested in, she worshiped and prayed night and day.
Peace? (vs 14)
We proclaim peace on earth, but what peace? It’s only half the story. Peace is conditional. There is a real peace to those of good will, a peace which passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). Our passage has some other things to say. Different translations say peace on earth with whom God is well pleased or on whom his favor rests.
Jesus came to bring peace on earth, a peace which passes human understanding to those on whom his favor rests and when he returns, world peace. Like Anna and Simeon we wait patiently for that day.