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The Birth of Jesus Pt. 2 (Luke 2:1-20)


Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 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, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.


In the “days” of the birth of John and then Jesus (and in the days of those kings; see ref. Matt. 2:1; Daniel 2:44), the Ceasar Augustus issued a decree that a census be taken. While the text gives off the idea that this happened in “all the world”, there is no evidence in any historical document (including the Bible) that would suggest this type of census taking place in “all the world” (literally). The words that are used here literally mean in all the “inhabited earth” (NASB) and to be more direct, it is referring to all the inhabited earth under the jurisdiction of the Caesar at that time. Strong’s says it can mean: “…by extension a region…of the terrene globe (including the occupants in each application).”


This census most likely referred to Palestine, including Galilee where Mary and Joseph were from (See the usage of “all the world” in Matthew 4:8 and Acts 11:28). A census is often taken in our land, and there comes a time when we must obey our officials in keeping their laws and ordinances. Sometimes, we are faced with decrees: paying taxes, voting, abiding by the laws of the land, and all of these reflect our attitudes toward local authorities and also to God (Rom. 13:1-5)

While some (translations, and Bible scholars) call this event a taxation, it was merely a census to enroll the Jews on a list that would tell of their ownership of lands and possessions while stating the names of the family members with their ages and other pertinent information. This is similar to our modern census today, except the people had to gather to one location to enroll (their birth city).

Some have tried to find fault with Luke’s history here in saying that this was the “first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”. Quirinius or Cyrenius was not governor of Syria until 10-12 years after the birth of Christ. Josephus would state this fact in a very plain fashion and it presents an apparent problem to this text. Or does it? Barnes said here that, “Herodian says that to Marcus "the emperor" were born several daughters and two sons," though several of those children were born to him "before" he was emperor. Thus, it is not improper to say that General Washington saved Braddock's army, or was engaged in the old French war, though he was not actually made "general" until many years afterward. According to this Augustus sent Cyrenius, an active, enterprising man, to take the census. At that time he was a Roman senator. Afterward, he was made governor of the same country, and received the title which Luke gives him.” I am always impressed by those who would seek to discredit the Bible, when only after a moment of contemplation and sincere consideration of the text, most of these “so-called” discrepancies, are nothing more than something that requires a few studies. God’s word is God’s word and we need to believe what has been recorded on the pages of the Bible. While some of our translations of certain texts may be poorly rendered, and our understanding of early languages may lack wisdom, God has given us His Divine will in the pages of the Scriptures as it was revealed by the Holy Spirit. We cannot doubt the pages of His holy Book.

The text tells us that after the decree was sent out, that all the people under the jurisdiction of the Caesar, came to their own cities to register for the census. The need for going to your own city, was due to the fact that your records were kept in that location. Specifically, in this text, we want to notice Mary and Joseph who obeyed this decree and made their way to Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph were of the lineage and family of David. They left Nazareth and went to the city of Bethlehem, which was called “the city of David”. Bethlehem is called “the city of David” because that was where he was born”. It should not surprise us to see Jesus born here as well, since OT prophecy pointed to the offspring of David, ruling on his everlasting throne (Micah 5:2; Jer. 33:15-17)

Verse 5 reminds us of our previous studies where we learned that Mary, who was a virgin, was only engaged to Joseph, but she was with child of the Holy Spirit. Remember that Elizabeth has already given birth to John, the forerunner to the Messiah, and he was growing stronger and preparing for his public appearance to prepare the way of the Lord, Jesus Christ. 


While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, Mary was ready to give birth and she gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God, in that place. The text assures us that this was Mary’s firstborn, and we can all be certain that this was God’s only begotten Son as well. This was to fulfill OT prophecy about the Messiah (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:5-6; Jn. 7:42 also Isaiah 9:6ff).

Mary wrapped Jesus in cloths (which comes from a word meaning that which was torn) and they were staying in a place outside of the inn, because there was no more room there. As the firstborn Son, Jesus was to receive the blessings of the inheritance…the birthright. Mary had nothing to offer Him as a poor woman. This place where Jesus was born can most likely be identified as a stable where animals are kept and when Mary laid Jesus in a manger, it is what we might know as a feeding trough for animals. Indeed Jesus made Himself of no reputation, but he, as King of kings and Lord of lords, was a Servant of rulers (Isaiah 49:7) and was of a humble estate (Read Isaiah 53). God was demonstrating that this life is only temporary before eternal life begins. Jesus often reminded people, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matt 8:20). But let us all remember that as children of God we all have an inheritance that is in heaven. Even if we are mistreated and used here, the Lord will bless us in the life to come.

Let us mention though, that is was due to the fact that there was a lack of room in the inn, that Mary and Joseph were forced to dwell in the stable for the night, and we can be certain that since so many had come to be enrolled for the census, that they were not alone. Others were forced to stay in the stable as well (See verse 18). Another point of realization that we must come to, is that the way that Jesus was treated when He was born, was not with a lack of care, but was cared for in the traditional way [washing, rubbed in salt, wrapped in strips of cloth] (Ezek. 16:4)

Being a pious father and mother to a child is of more value than giving them all of this world’s treasures. Kids are simply spoiled rotten today? We need to be taught to lay up treasures in heaven while we seek those things, which are above.

Do you understand that this world is not your final home? You are just passing through (as the famous hymn puts it)…don’t become so comfortable here that you forget about your future dwelling place. 

What kind of world was Jesus coming into, where not only would they refuse a woman in labor at the inn, but then would reject the holy One being born as the Messiah and Savior of the world? What level of compassion and love do we have in our lives today? Do we have proper hospitality, care, and concern? Do we accept Jesus as the Son of God and love Him as Lord of our lives? Perhaps we could say the world itself hasn’t changed…just some people who have been touched by the gospel (good news). Are you one of those people?


In the same region there were {some} shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Around the same region of Bethlehem, some herders of flocks were in the field taking turns on watch over their sheep, at night. As the cooler milder temperatures set in, the flocks in this land would be brought into the barns. But here we see that when Jesus was born, the shepherds were still out in the fields with their sheep. This leads us to a few observations. As we approach another “Christmas” season, notice, Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th as many people would claim, but he was more than likely born earlier. While this point can be established, the real matter should be that we are never called to recognize and celebrate any day for the birth of Christ. We are told to remember His death on the first day of the week (I Cor. 11:23ff; Acts 20:7), but apart from that we celebrate His life every day, by living for Him. To have a “mass” for “Christ”(Christ-mass) stems from Catholic theology where they have a service to reenact the death of Jesus Christ over and over again. I know…you thought is was about the birth of Christ, but that is not so.


Actually when everyone says, “Merry Christ-mass” they are literally saying, “take a jolly approach to the death of Jesus” David J. Meyer said (after looking at Catholic sources), “…the word "Mass" in religious usage means a "death sacrifice."  The impact of this fact is horrifying and shocking; for when the millions of people are saying, "Merry Christmas", they are literally saying "Merry death of Christ!" While there is joy in knowing that Christ died for us…it has nothing to do with the day called “Christmas” and we are to remember the death of Christ on the first day of every week.

At night, being out in a field has its own eerie feelings, not to mention when something comes out of nowhere and frightens you. This is exactly what happened when an angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds.

The angel of the Lord stood before them with the glory of the Lord shining all around. Most of us know already what the angel of the Lord says when his appearance frightens people, from our previous studies together (See Luke 1:12, 29). The angel said, “"Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Interestingly, all of the news that the angels have delivered so far is good news for the people. Sometimes we have fear when it comes to spiritual things that do not allow us to get a true image of God. In turn then, we feel that God views us in a negative way.

We figure if God is revealing something to us through the gospel, pricking our hearts, then we must be in for some judgment or condemnation. What if for once we realized that God is giving us an opportunity to be saved and enjoy the blessings of heaven when he reveals His message to us? While we do not want to give the impression that God is only a God of love, sometimes that fact is overlooked? While we know that a day of wrath is coming, we also need to remember that we can escape the condemnation of that judgment in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Barclay said the following about the shepherds being the ones to hear this good news, “It is a wonderful thing that the story should tell that the first announcement of God should come to the shepherds. The shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. Their flocks made far too constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them as a very common people.” He went on to note that these were most likely,  “special shepherds” who lived in an area where the priests had organized a place to raise unblemished lambs for their morning and evening sacrifices. These men were the first to see the difference between the OT and the new covenant of Jesus Christ. While the old covenant required animal sacrifices, the new covenant required the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29). These shepherds would no longer be watching over the animals who would be offered for atonement, but they were going to be watching over the Lamb of God, who would give His life for the sins of the world. These shepherds would be watching over one Lamb on this night.

Here I restate the words of the angel, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” 

What a beautiful message to hear…a Savior has been born…He is the Messiah…He is the Lord…He is the fulfillment of the coming King on the throne of David…blessings to all people (Acts 2:38f).

"This {will be} a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, 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."


The angel of the Lord gave a sign to the shepherds as to how they would locate this holy child, Jesus, the Christ. He said, “you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Remember that is was odd for a pregnant woman to be turned away from the inn in labor with child, but this child was born in a stable and was laid in a manger. This would be a different sight and would be a sure sign that the child in this situation, would be the Son of God Most High.

A story has been recorded about a monarch of Europe who worried his high officials by disappearing into the crowds of people in the local city. When asked not to do this anymore, he simply responded, “I cannot rule my people, unless I know how they live” Jesus did the same thing for us (See Heb. 4:14-16).

To give further credence to the truth of the message that was spoken by the angel of the Lord, a host of heavens angels appear and sing the praise of God on high, while claiming peace for those who are found pleasing in the sight of God. Indeed, Jesus would be our peace, since He was the one through whom we could have a right relationship with God (See Eph. 2:14ff) The singing of the angels seems to occur to replace the songs that would be traditionally be sung to a newborn child.

As soon as the heavenly hosts departed from the shepherds into heaven, the shepherds made the decision to, “go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” When God reveals something that is considered to be a good news message of great joy to all people, do we take the initiative to check it out and follow His lead?

Also of great importance, do we tell others about the good news of great joy that God has given to us but yet is for all people? Would the shepherds have benefited from this revelation, if they had sat there in disbelief, lacking zeal for the Lord’s words?

These men said let us go “straight to Bethlehem”, they weren’t taking any detours and breaks along the way. They also believed that what the angels had revealed to them, definitely “happened”. They also considered all of this to be a message from “the Lord”, even though the angels were the mouthpieces of God. How will you respond to the message of God today?

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

After describing all of the fine qualities of these shepherds in trusting the revelation of God regarding the newborn Savior, the text continues, “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” They were not going to waste anytime. If the Savior of the world was available, they were going to see Him. How do we come to Christ?

When they saw Jesus, they told of the meeting that they had with the angel of the Lord about this child. When the shepherds completed their report, all of the people that heard what they had said were wondering about these things, including Mary, of whom it is said, she, “…treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart”.

Think about the thoughts of all of the people gathered on this occasion: What does this mean that a Savior is born? Is this the Messiah who is born in the city of David? What will this good news of great joy mean to me? Multitudes of angels speaking glory to God and peace to those who are right with the Lord…what will become of all of these things?

Do you ever ask similar questions in your life? Do you hold some things in your heart (or even conscience) from time to time that have come from a message of the Lord? Do you find yourself like Mary pondering them? This is not wrong, as long as we come to the knowledge of the truth and act on the words of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today we can boldly proclaim that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and was resurrected to give us hope for life eternal. We know that He is the Savior of the world and is the one who will reign forever and ever. Amen!

Just because a Savior is born, doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be saved. Indeed, Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), but we also know that only those that obey Him can have that salvation (Heb. 5:9; Luke 6:46; Mark 16:16).

-The text of our study concludes by telling us of the last response of the shepherds. It says, “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” This is the proper response to all that God has done for us.

As you return home today, like these shepherds did so long ago, will you leave here rejoicing and praising God because of the salvation that you have in Jesus Christ, or will you leave here today, still doubting and lost in your sins, while not giving glory to God for what He has done for you? Will you take exactly what you have heard and seen from the Lord today and put your full trust in what he has asked you to do in obedience to Him?” (Rom. 10:13-17)

I would hope and pray that when you finish this study today, that you will call upon the name of the Lord after being baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). If you have not yet obeyed the gospel (good news) of the  Lord…or you have become unfaithful to Him…come to Jesus, your Savior today, and go home rejoicing that you are a faithful child of God, destined for the blessing of eternal life and all of the spiritual blessings that are found in Jesus.

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