Who is coming to your house for Christmas? Is the uncle who always tells the corny jokes going to be there? Maybe the aunt who still pinches your cheeks the way she did when you were three years old! Will your brother-in-law be there? You know, the one who still owes you $50. Most families have an interesting mix of family and friends who get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Let’s take a look at who was there for the first Christmas. Luke 2 records the story of the birth of Jesus. When I was in junior high, our English teacher, Mrs. Dye, required all of her students to memorize Luke 2:1-20. If a teacher in a public school gave that assignment today, I suppose that he or she would face the wrath of the ACLU, or perhaps some atheist parents. I am glad that I grew up in a time when people were more receptive to God’s word.
In Luke 2 we read that Joseph and Mary were there, of course. Joseph was an ordinary carpenter who was given an extraordinary assignment—to be the earthly father of the Son of God! Joseph struggled with this idea at first. When Mary, who was pledged to be his wife, was found to be pregnant, Joseph planned to quietly divorce her. He knew that he was not the father of the child, so he suspected that she had been unfaithful to him. However, an angel convinced him that she had not been unfaithful, and that this was God’s plan to save his people from their sins (Matt.1).
Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl whose only qualification for being chosen to be the mother of Jesus seems to be that she had found favor with God. Like Joseph, Mary questioned the idea of a virgin conception. However, she also had a visit from an angel who explained God’s plan to her. Mary’s response was to accept the assignment that she had been given (Luke 1).
As Mary neared the time for her baby to be delivered, she and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem to register for the census. It was so crowded there that they could not find a proper room to stay in. When the time came for Jesus to be born, he was wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger. What a humble entrance for the King of kings and Lord of lords! We might have written a different script, but this is God’s story—his story of how he would save the world through his Son Jesus.
Luke tells us that shepherds were there that first Christmas. They were just minding their own business, keeping watch over their flocks at night, when something marvelous happened. An angel appeared to them and told them of the birth of Jesus. Then v.13-14 says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
The shepherds decided that they must go right away to search for the baby Jesus. When they found him they praised God and spread the word about what had been told them about this child. They could not keep from worshiping God and spreading the good news that a Savior had been born.
Just as Joseph and Mary and the shepherds accepted their proper role that first Christmas, let’s consider what God wants us to do as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He wants us to obey him, even if it requires a big change in our lives. He wants us to spend time worshiping and praising God for sending us a Savior in Jesus. And he wants us to spread the good news about Jesus wherever we go!