Friday, December 22, 2023

A Day of Great Joy

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (Philippians 2:7 NLT)

It’s ironic that sometimes in all the busyness of Christmas, we can be ready for the season to be over. The theme of Christmas is joy. That’s certainly what we find in the pages of the Bible.

Part of the problem is that we try to find joy and happiness in Christmas when we really need to find joy and happiness in Christ. There is a big difference.

Many of us have read the Christmas story so many times that we might even have memorized it. It’s very familiar. And because of that, we can easily skip over it and not think about what it means.

Luke, who penned the Gospel that bears his name, was very meticulous in his reporting. He was a stickler for detail. He wanted to give us facts so we could pinpoint this event in human time. Thus, he mentioned the fact that Caesar Augustus gave the decree for a census and that Quirinius was in power as well (see Luke 2:1-2).

We know a little bit about these men from history. Caesar Augustus was the great nephew of Julius Caesar. He was a born fighter who had clawed his way into power by defeating Antony and Cleopatra. Then through considerable genius and force, he gave the Roman Empire a solidity that lasted for centuries. It was also this Caesar who was the first to take on the title of Augustus, which means “of the gods” or “the holy and revered one.”

Interestingly, an inscription was found dating to the time of Caesar Augustus that described him as the savior of the world. That is how Caesar saw himself.

Therefore, it’s especially interesting when we come to Luke 2:10-12, which says, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (NLT).

Essentially the angel, with this announcement to the shepherds, was saying, “Don’t look to the palace of Rome for the Savior of the world. Look to the manger in Bethlehem. Don’t look at that self-proclaimed god in Rome. Look at that baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. There is the Savior of the world!”

When we look at the life of Jesus and the Incarnation, we see that it isn’t a rags-to-riches story; it’s a riches-to-rags story. Jesus gave up everything for us.

The first sensation on the tender skin of the baby Jesus would have been the rough, torn cloth in which He was wrapped. The Son of God, with tiny human ears, would have heard the munching of hay by an ox or a donkey. What a rude awakening.

Yet this was the sacrifice that He made for us. It was the ultimate gift to humanity. And what we must not lose sight of is that Christmas is all about joy—because a Savior has been born.

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