LESSON 4 22/12/2013
TIME OF GOOD TIDINGS: BEHOLD THE SAVIOUR IS BORN
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 147, 148
Devotional Reading: ISAIAH 52:1-10
Topic For Adults
SHARE THE GOOD TIDINGS
Topic For Youths
HAVING ENDURING JOY
Memory Verse: Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Lk. 2:10) NKJV
DAILY BIBLE READING
Behold, The Saviour Is Born
When Jesus was born, the heavenly host announced His birth to a group of humble and industrious shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks. The shepherds lost no time, but came in haste to the place where the Saviour was born. They were satisfied and made known abroad concerning this child, that He was the Saviour, even Christ the Lord. As we approach Christmas, we will do well and will make God happy if only we will proclaim Jesus to the world as the Saviour and that to celebrate His birth meaningfully, they need to give their totality to God through Jesus. The essence of Christ being given to the world as a gift during this Christmas period is to save men from their sins. Saved believers should declare this good tidings of great joy and peace.
Point of Emphasis: The good tidings of Jesus’ salvation is for all men.
Prayer Point: Like the Shepherds, help me to declare the gospel of Jesus to all men.
Christmas is a period of joy, peace and merry making. Nature is
usually in cooperation with the period. It is a season of celebration, buying of new things and exchange of gift. It is a period that has been attached to the commemoration of the birth of the Saviour of the world – Jesus’ Christ. This week’s lesson revisits the account of the birth of Jesus and the good tidings of great joy it brings to all humanity.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
(A) THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING JESUS’ BIRTH – LK. 2:1-7
Jesus’ birth was dated by Luke as falling in the reign of Caesar Augustus, who was officially made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C and ruled to A.D. 14. Because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 B.C, Jesus was born before that time. The mention of Quirinius as governor of Syria poses a problem. He was governor in A.D. 6-7, much too late for Jesus’ birth. Therefore, does the word “first”, as in the NIV, refer to a first, that is, an earlier, census by Quirinius? If so, one would have to posit a previous governorship for Quirinius at about 4 B.C. Perhaps a better solution is to take “first” to mean “before”, as in John 15:18. If this is accepted, then Luke 2:2 would read, “this was the census that took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria” (i.e. before A.D. 6).
For the census Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home. A Roman census (registration) was taken to aid military conscription or tax collection. The Jews didn’t have to serve in the Roman army, but they could not avoid paying taxes. Augustus’ decree went out in God’s perfect timing and according to God’s perfect plan to bring his Son into the world and to be born in Bethlehem according to prophet Micah’s prophecy (Mic. 5:2). Though Joseph and Mary were living outside Bethlehem, for the word of God to come to pass, they had to go for the census. Mary accompanied Joseph for some reasons despite her condition. First, the couple knew she would have the baby during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated at that. Second, both of them knew that the Child was the Messiah. They also would have known that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2)
The child was born during their stay in Bethlehem. The couple was housed near the inn. The child was placed in a manger in which livestock fed for there was no more room for them in the inn. It is not surprising that there was no room for them in the village inn considering the number of travellers flocking to various cities during the time of this census. Mary wrapped the baby in swaddling cloth, which were bands of cloth that were used to keep a baby warm, and give it a sense of security. All these circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth pointed to obscurity, poverty, and even rejection. Luke showed the King of kings born into poor and humble circumstances – born as a human, born to serve.
(B) THE HERALDING OF JESUS’ BIRTH BY THE ANGELS – LK. 2:8-14
From the dirty manger, Luke moved to the fields outside the village. It was in the night. Shepherds were there, guarding their flocks of sheep. Among the occupations, shepherding had a lowly place. They were outcasts, not allowed in the city and not trusted by the general public, for often they were thieves. Luke gave this story of angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds to show that Jesus would come, not to the proud and powerful, but to the outcasts, the humble, those considered “last” on the social lists. The appearance of the angel and of the radiant glory of God terrified the shepherd. However, the angel’s message was comforting. The shepherds were told not to be afraid. The message was that “a Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord was born”. This was good news of great joy. This news was to be proclaimed to all the people. These were specifically the people of Israel, but perhaps Luke also hinted that the Saviour would be for all mankind. The angel was then joined by a great company of other angels engaged in praising God in the highest and proclaiming peace on earth to men on whom God’s favour rests.
The angels gave the shepherds the direction, location and the signs with which to identify the Saviour in a manger and then followed the rejoicing by the multitude of angels. The arrival of God’s Son on earth caused all the heaven to join in an anthem of praise to God. The peace Jesus is to bring is not peace after war or conflict, but peace between sinful humanity and the holy God.
(C) THE HERALDING OF JESUS’ BIRTH BY THE SHEPHERDS – LK 2:15-20
After the departure of the angels, the shepherds went to see the Baby, and they met the baby as they were told by the angels. The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message and went to confirm it for themselves. After seeing the Baby, the shepherds were the first messengers to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah – They spread the word. Those who heard their words were amazed, but Mary kept those words and pondered on them. This pondering means deep reflection, mulling over, seeking to understand and interpret what those words were. Remember angel Gabriel had told her that the little boy would reign forever (Lk. 1:31-33), now the shepherds reported the angel’s word that He is the Saviour, Christ the Lord. As Mary held this tiny baby, she must have wondered what God was doing, and who her son would grow up to become.
The Shepherds had to get back to their fields and flocks before their sheep wandered off into the night. As they did so, they were glorifying and praising God (verse 20). They knew that they had received a special message and had been privileged to be the first to see the promised child and to spread the good tidings about the Saviour to people.
Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth was heralded by both angels and shepherds to the effect that He would bring peace and great joy to all people. Have you been numbered among the beneficiaries of the purpose of Christ’s birth or are you just celebrating His birth in sin?
(1) Mention one thing that the census decree of Caesar Augustus did in the salvation plan of God.
(2) Why do you think that Mary had to follow Joseph for the census despite her heavy pregnancy?
(3) What can we learn from the circumstances that surrounded Jesus’ birth?
(4) What is the message of the angels to the shepherds?
(5) How did the shepherds herald Jesus’ birth?