Sermon Notes & References

Messiah Arrives

Luke 2:1-20

December 24, 2017

A. Introduction

    1. Traditions

    2. This a Traditional Reading

B. The Birth of the Christ-Child                                 Luke 2:1-7

    1. God Rules over Rulers

        a. Augustus Caesar’s Decree (1-2)

        b. Joseph & Mary’s Journey (3-5)

    2. God Enters Mankind

        a. ‘In the fullness of time’ (6)

        b. ‘He humbled Himself’ (7) 1

C. The Angelic Evangel                                           Luke 2:8-14

    1. The Scene (8-9)

    2. The Good Tidings (10-12) 2

    3. The Choral Anthem (13-14)

D. The Shepherds’ Testimony                                Luke 2:15-20

    1. Hastening to Christ (15-16)

    2. The Witness & Its Results

        a. By Those Present (17-18)

        b. By Mary (19) 3

        c. By Themselves (20)

E. Conclusion

1 Luke 2:1-20. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Messiah Arrives


A. Introduction

    1. Traditions

        a. there seem to be as many of them as there are families

        b. the decorating of the Christmas tree

            (A)    many do it a week or two ahead

            (B)    ours is frequently on Christmas Eve – not so much from tradition but because that’s when it is finally bought or cut

            (C)   in some families, one person does it; in another, everybody; and all the shades in between

            (D)   and with a wide variety of ornaments; some bran-new, some old and in use for multiple generations

        c. opening the presents

            (A)    for some, it is first up, first open

            (B)    others, immediately after the last stroke of midnight

            (C)   and some, only after breakfast

            (D)   or when the rest of the family has arrived

        d. and food … there’s the rest of our morning gone!

            (A)    what specialties do you have?

            (B)    turkey, ham, duck, goose, sausage rolls, and so on

            (C)   goodies of all sorts: candy, fruit, cookies, cakes; yummy calories!

    2. A Traditional Reading

        a. “Charlie Brown Christmas” 2

            (A)    we have heard this recounted at many a Christmas

            (B)    sometimes in children’s presentation

            (C)   we have spoken on it in the adult Bible class, and often, as today, in our sermon on Christmas Sunday

        b. it’s a simple message … the joy of the birth of a child

            (A)    an event shared a million times over every year

            (B)    a creative gift from the Creator God to mankind, His creation

        c. but this Child’s birth is impenetrably profound

            (A)    for it is unparalleled in all of time

            (B)    this birth is that of Immanuel – God with us

            (C)   the Incarnation: God became flesh and dwelt among us!

B. The Birth of the Christ-Child. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luke 2:1-7

    1. God Rules over Rulers

        a. Augustus Caesar’s Decree (1-2)

            (A)    1 Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

            (B)    census” or “taxed” – literally, “registered”

            (C)   reason’s for a king taking a census

                 (1)    to brag how many people they ruled – David’s wrongful doing so despite Joab’s pleas – and the resulting scourge of Israel

                 (2)    to form a tax base – the collection of taxes farmed out to men (“publicans”) who had to pay this quota; the rest they kept

            (D)   appears to have taken some years to cover the empire, and repeated periodically (every 14 years)

        b. Joseph & Mary’s Journey (3-5)

            (A)    3 And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

            (B)    God’s promise to David that the King forever from his son

            (C)   Joseph’s journey there on that account – a descendant of David

            (D)   there he registered himself and Mary

            (E)    implying Mary’s ancestors came from Bethlehem, too – Luke gives Jesus’ genealogy through Mary’s father back to Adam


    2. God Enters Mankind

        a. In the fullness of time” (6)

            (A)    8 And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

            (B)    we are not told how long after arriving in Bethlehem the birth took place but apparently it was soon after by the way the story is told

            (C)   nevertheless, it was all in God’s time and God’s place

            (D)   for Micah 5:2 prophesies to Bethlehem “… From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.

        b. He humbled Himself” (7)

            (A)    7 And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

            (B)    we sing “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed”, but the author of that carol must not have realised that crib means manger

                 (1)    it has had that meaning for about 1,000 years (OED)

                 (2)    its meaning as a child’s bed is only 3½ centuries old and probably derived from the history of Jesus’ birth

                 (3)    it was a place where the fodder was put so that livestock – sheep, goats, cattle, beasts of burden – could eat it

            (C)   whether this was in a stable, a barn, a lean-to beside the inn or a cave is uncertain; but one thing is certain:

                 (1)    it was not the royal suite!

                 (2)    it was a place where animals would be sheltered

                 (3)    and it was a mark of the humiliation of the Son of God who emptied Himself and made Himself of no reputation

                 (4)    as Jesus later said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58)

            (D)   yet in that humble manger was laid the eternal King of Glory!


C. The Angelic Evangel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luke 2:8-14

    1. The Scene (8-9)

        a. 8 And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

        b. we have all seen this scene on many Christmas cards

        c. but what was it like to FEEL that scene?

            (A)    at one moment there was the night was dark and quiet

            (B)    some of the shepherds dozing, others chatting together

            (C)   perhaps the occasional bleat of a sheep, or a sharp gust of wind

            (D)   if chilly, gathering their cloaks around them, huddling by a fire

        d. THEN all that is shattered:

            (A)    brilliant light; the Lord’s angel standing by them with the Lord’s glory shining upon them

            (B)    instead of their being relatively comfortable … abject fear

        e. so the angel speaks his message


    2. The Good Tidings (10-12)

        a. 10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.”

        b. as with Zacharias, with Joseph, the angel bids the shepherds not to fear – and then gives them good reason to stop fearing

        c. the word in the original for “good news” is that from which we get our English words ‘evangel’, ‘evangelist’, ‘evangelization’

            (A)    the angel was a messenger with a good message

            (B)    the angel brought a message of great joy

            (C)   the angel brought a message for all the people – properly as the fulfilment to the promises to Israel, but beyond that as fulfilling the promise to Abraham: “… and in you and in your descendants [the Hebrew is singular, ‘seed’, but can be rendered either singular or plural as a collective noun] shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14)

        d. so the angel’s evangel is the long-expected Jesus

            (A)    it seems unlikely that the angel spoke in Greek, a foreign language to these rough shepherds, but probably Aramaic, a dialect similar to Hebrew, so Luke would have had to translate it when he wrote this gospel – certainly the angel would have said Messiah

            (B)    the angel does not say ‘was’ or ‘will be’ but, this baby IS Saviour, Messiah, Lord – this was from Bethlehem through life unto Calvary

            (C)   and you are going to find Messiah Lord as a little baby, wrapped about with cloths, and lying in a feeding trough, a crib, a manger


    3. The Choral Anthem (13-14)

        a. 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

        b. the translation of the last words in verse 14 is much debated, but the NIV captures, I believe, the key thought “on whom His favour rests.

        c. the message of the angel, is about God’s grace shown to mankind in the birth of Jesus

        d. the praise of the heavenly host is for that grace of God, which alone can bring peace between man and His Maker

        e. surely such a gracious God is worthy of the highest glory and praise


D. The Shepherds’ Testimony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luke 2:15-20

    1. Hastening to Christ (15-16)

        a. 15 And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

        b. this was not a message that when the angels finished speaking that the shepherds could just turn around to sit down again by their fire

            (A)    it called for action; immediate action

            (B)    when you hear a message from God it always calls for action

            (C)   the action here was to take the implied command, “you will find” and head immediately, speedily, to nearby Bethlehem

        c. the word ‘found’ tells more than discovering by chance, or by casually looking, but as the result of an intense search

            (A)    yes, Bethlehem was a little village

            (B)    but how many houses did they stop to ask about a new-born baby?

            (C)   how many of those asked came along with wonder themselves?

            (D)   until at last they found their way to Mary, Joseph, the Baby.


    2. Their Witness & Its Results (17-20)

        a. By Those Present (17-18)

            (A)    17 And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

            (B)    how many times must they have repeated the angel’s words?

            (C)   how many questions did Mary, Joseph, and the people around ask?

            (D)   what amazement must have been on their own faces that was soon to be seen on the faces of their audience

        b. By Mary (19)

            (A)    19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

            (B)    did Luke, in his searching for the details for his gospel (Luke 1:1-4) get a glimpse at Mary’s “Baby Book”?

            (C)   what a startling, further confirmation of Gabriel’s words given to her in the city of Nazareth some nine months before

            (D)   a night that she would never forget but treasure every detail

        c. By Themselves (20)

            (A)    20 And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

            (B)    what a sight they had seen

            (C)   and how these poor shepherds must have been filled with joy that to them had been given the privilege of first sight of Messiah

            (D)   what a cause for praise when you or I come to see Jesus Messiah!


E. Conclusion

    1. Once again we have heard this wondrous story

        a. will we just go away, merely thinking, “that’s a nice story”

        b. or will we, like Mary, ponder, reflect upon, and treasure it – that God in His great love, in this fashion, entered into the history of mankind

        c. and more particularly for you, and you, and you, and me

        d. then surely we will accept by faith to the great work of salvation that Jesus accomplished on Calvary’s cross to take away our sin.




© 2017 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:


              AV          Authorized (King James) Version of 1769

              NAS        New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)

              IGNT              Interlinear Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, 1956; as well as other Greek Texts as W&H, Nestle, etc.

              NIV         New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society

              NKJV              New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers

              Philips     The New Testament in Modern Englis, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd

              RSV        Revised Standard Version © 1946, 1952 National Council of Churches of Christ; Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd

              WEY               The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth

Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:

              BM       Biblical Museum, Editor James Comper Gray, ca 1870

              EBC             The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:

              EGT             The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903

              JFB  -      Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872

              Gill       Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.

              Kerux –   The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site,

              RWP             Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson

              TTB      Thinking Through the Bible, Rev’d John McNicol, D.D., © 1944 by the author; The Upper Canada Tract & Book Society.


Cartoons taken from ‘The Gospel According to Peanuts' by Robert L. Short, pages 73-74, © 1963 by M. E. Bratcher, and cartoons © by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.