Read Luke 2.
This is the Christmas story we read and love so much- the version with the angels and shepherds and the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. While we tend to romanticize the birth and the early days of Jesus’ life, there is so much more to this chapter. Luke gives us important evidence that underscores the veracity of his claim that Jesus is indeed the Messiah the prophets foretold.
The Messiah was to be a descendent of David, from the town of Bethlehem. Luke brings out these points that are foretold about Jesus and who He would be.
“The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.” -Psalm 132:11 (ESV)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)
Luke also gives us an historical timeframe when he names the rulers of Judea- Caesar Augustus the Roman Emperor, and Quirinius the governor of Syria. (There is some conjecture as to when Quirinius was officially appointed and named governor, but it is well known that he was a public official with authority in that area at the time.)
Jesus comes to us not as a high and important public official, nor as a celebrity, but as a child born to a poor teenage mother of (outwardly) questionable morality.
Jesus was first revealed not to high officials or kings, but to shepherds. Shepherds were the lowest of the low social strata. They were dirty. They smelled like sheep and were likely caked in sheep poo. They were social outcasts, yet God sent His angels to dirty, forgotten shepherds first, to bring them the good news that the promised Son of David has arrived.
Or do we forget that David, the great king of Israel, was once a shepherd too? David, the shepherd boy who God chose over his older and more kingly-looking brothers?
When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple so that he may be circumcised and brought into the community of Israel, they come upon Simeon, an elderly man to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would see the Redeemer in the flesh before he died. When Simeon first held up the infant Jesus in the temple he declared:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 (ESV)
Simeon’s prayer of thanks was followed by a prophecy and a warning to Jesus’ mother:
“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35 (ESV)
Thirty three years later, a sword would indeed pierce Mary’s soul, as she stood beneath a Roman cross watching her first-born son die, whether she realized it or not, for the sake of taking away her sins and taking away the sins of the whole world.
A woman named Anna was also in the temple. She was a widow from her youth. Anna too, saw Jesus for who he was, thanking God and telling everyone who came in to the temple that she had seen her Redeemer. It makes one wonder, how many people saw Anna as a crazy old woman, and how many saw her as one who had been blessed by God to actually lay eyes on the Messiah in her lifetime?
Luke and the other Gospel writers give us precious little on the years after Jesus’ birth, before he began his ministry. Luke does tell us – a story likely gleaned from Mary, Jesus’ mother- of a time when Jesus got lost from His parents coming home from a trip to Jerusalem. How terrified Mary must have been.
Mary had to know Jesus was different than her other children. Jesus, the one who taught in the temple at age 12. Jesus who had to be in his Father’s house. Mary treasured these things in her heart, (Luke 2, verses 19 and 51) but at this point in Jesus’ life she could only wonder what this could possibly mean.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52 (ESV)