International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 22, 2013
Purpose: To explore what the birth of Jesus reveals about the nature of God and God’s kingdom
Background: Luke 2:1-20
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-7
Luke 2: 1-7 (CEB)
(1) In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. (2) This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.(3) Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. (4) Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. (5) He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. (6) While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. (7) She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.(8) Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. (9) The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
(10) The angel said, "Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. (11) Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. (12) This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger." (13) Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said,(14) "Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."
(15) When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us."(16) They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. (17) When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This portion of scripture is so familiar that it is like driving down a road you have driven so many times you no longer appreciate the beauty of the ride.
What is the one thing that we can see on this journey that we have missed so many times before? Forget that historians disagree on the time frame, because Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until 6 A.D. or that King Herod died in 4 B.C.
I do not think the exact time frame is as important as the message, we know that Joseph returned to Nazareth after King Herod died. So Luke’s timing could be off by as much as 8 -10 years, and the tax roll census could have been a local event for Jews only. That Jesus was born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, and was raised in Nazareth all fulfil prophecies. Different writers have differing accounts and timing on the early life of Jesus.
As for the manger, I can only say it was obviously the very first “King” size bed. Many of Bethlehem’s homes had courtyards where the animals and water was stored, including stables for the family donkey, and possible a wood burning oven. Although they did not need a garage, the concept is the same.
Since Shepherds were watching their flocks, most believe the birth took place in the spring, summer or fall months. Grazing was not done during the winter months. Most historians agree that the December 25th date was a Roman accommodation, since that was the date of a pagan festival. Early Christians used it as a time to celebrate, not as pagans, but as Christians, so they celebrated the birth of Christ.
For us the angelic message to the shepherds seems to hold the most challenging message. Why has the most popular denominations seemed to miss the fact that the message is for everyone especially the lowly and poor? Where are you the least likely to find the poor and the lowly? Unfortunately it is in most of our finest churches. There was no hesitation for the shepherds to go and tell what they had heard. The shepherds went immediately to confirm what the angels had told them. Can we say the same about us? Do you feel any urgency to share that a “Savior has been born?”