It’s the same every year, isn’t it? As Christmas draws near, we struggle to maintain our focus on the Lord and the true meaning of the season. We find ourselves longing for the peaceful Christmas-card version of the holidays! But if you think about it, there probably wasn’t a lot of tranquility to be had on that first Christmas night. The Roman government had called for a census, forcing everyone back to their ancestral towns to be properly counted. Can you imagine the disruption that caused? With everyone and everything totally upended, there was plenty of commotion going on then, I assure you!
Scripture tells us that in Bethlehem, which had been King David’s hometown, every available room was filled. Food would probably have been at a premium as well. We don’t often think of it, but it was most likely a very “commercialized” situation, with the merchants working hard to meet the needs of their many customers, happy for the profit but stretched thin by the demand. Caught up in the pressures, few would have noticed just one more couple who came into the town needing a place to stay.
We all know the story. Even though the birth of their baby was imminent, Mary and Joseph, being from David’s line, had returned to Bethlehem—only to be relegated to the inn’s stable. And there, the promised Messiah, the very Son of God, made His entrance into the world. But do we really understand how appropriate it was that Jesus Christ, the promised Lamb of God, would be born exactly where He was?
It was a fulfillment of long-standing prophecy, of course, that the King of Kings would be born in David’s royal city. But it also has to do with lambs and shepherds. You see, the flocks that were kept on the hillsides surrounding Bethlehem were those special lambs that were raised for use as sacrifices in Jerusalem’s Temple. These were the lambs who had to be without spot or blemish. These were the innocent lambs who, through no fault of their own, would be sacrificed on behalf of sinful people, setting them free from their own guilt and shame.
Those shepherds on the hills around Bethlehem would be the first to know when a new sacrificial lamb was born. And so it was when God sent His Lamb into the world. As these men watched their flocks that night an angel appeared to them telling them: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12) And like the attentive shepherds they were, they immediately went into the town to look for this Lamb and worship Him.
Have you ever wondered why God first announced Christ’s birth to shepherds? They were a despised group of people, considered to be far from God and beneath contempt. No one would have imagined that God’s favor might rest on them or that they could be entrusted with the message of Christ’s birth. But God chose them to prove that this good news—this news of great joy—is indeed for all people!
This Christmas season, let’s purposefully determine not to be like the merchants and innkeepers of Bethlehem, overwhelmed by the “busy-ness” and indeed the “business” of the season. Let’s be like the shepherds, looking for the Savior and worshipping Him. The King born in a stable–the Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world–invites us to come, accepts us as we are, and offers all of us His peace and His favor!
Blessings on your day!