Online Bible Commentary
The Christmas Story
Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (KJV)
It is fitting that there are only two Christmas accounts in the Gospels. Only two were needed. Luke, the Gentile medical doctor, wrote this one and Matthew, the Jewish tax collector, wrote the other. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew were written to two different audiences. Matthew wrote in Hebrew to the Jews, and Luke wrote in Greek to the non-Jews, the Gentiles. All people of the day were able to hear the Christmas Story in their own language.
After the virgin, Mary, gave birth to Jesus she “wrapped him in swaddling clothes” (v. 7a). Swaddling clothes were basically strips, bands, of cloth which were used to support the back and bones of newborns, along with providing for the proper growth of the baby. The rank of the child was indicated by the splendor and cost of the bands.
In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger, a stable, because “there was no room for them in the inn” (v. 7b). The word “Bethlehem” means “house of bread”. It is a fitting name for our Savior’s birthplace, who is our living bread. God visited our planet in the person of a helpless baby, and in the poverty of an ill smelling stable. The fact that there was no room in the inn was a preview of how the Savior would be received by men who have no room for Him in their hearts.
Nearby, shepherds were watching “over their flock by night” (v. 8). An angel of the Lord, in all his glory, came upon them and “they were sore afraid” (v. 9). In the darkness, the angel’s appearance terrified the shepherds.
The sight of an angel is initially startling. However, the verb used here indicates that the shepherds’ fear was already in progress. Perhaps there was something in the air that had already spooked them. The first words spoken by the angel was “fear not” (v. 10a). This is a typical greeting from an angel, and is seen throughout the Bible.
After greeting the shepherds, the angel said: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (v. 10b). The “good tidings”, good news, of a “great joy” was for “all people”, not just the Jews. The good news was that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (v. 11).
These, humble, faithful, shepherds, tending their sheep on the Judean hillsides, were privileged to be the first to hear of the Savior’s coming. The shepherds were hard working men, just doing the job God had given them, like many of us. They carried a low reputation, and were looked upon with great suspicion. Despite this, they were the first to know of the Savior’s birth, not the religious leaders of Jerusalem, located less than ten miles north of Bethlehem. Bethlehem had been the home of Ruth, and later of her great grandson, David. It was now the birthplace of David’s descendant, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
But how would the shepherds recognize Him? The angel gave them a twofold sign. He would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes” (v. 12a) and He would be “lying in a manger” (v. 12b).
The angel was then joined by “a multitude of the heavenly host” (v. 13a). These multitudes of angels “praised God” (v. 13b). In a hallelujah chorus, the angels declared “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (v. 14).
At that point, Heaven’s pent up ecstasy broke forth upon the shepherds. Jesus’ life and ministry would bring glory to God! He would bring peace upon men, with whom He is pleased!
Men who obey God, who receive His Son as their Lord and Savior, will receive the peace brought by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. He did not bring world peace. There will always be wars. Instead, Jesus brought something better.
Jesus came to earth to bring the method whereby we all, you and I, can have true peace in our hearts. We can know the true peace that surpasses all understanding when we invite Jesus to come into our hearts! This is the true meaning of the Christmas Story. This is the reason for the season.