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Bible Search
In Defense of Christ
A Savior is Born
Luke 2:11
 
I would like to focus on one verse of Scripture that brings us to the heart of Christmas.
 
Luke 2:11
 
There are four parts to this verse, and each one teaches us something important about why Christ came to the earth and what his coming can mean to each of us.
 
1. The Prophecy of His Coming
 
Notice the simple phrase—"born this day in the city of David.”
 
Just so we’re clear, we need to understand that “the city of David” is not Jerusalem, it’s Bethlehem, which is six or seven miles south of Jerusalem. By the way, Bethlehem is still around.  It is an Arab town under Palestinian control, but when Jesus was born it was a tiny Jewish community.
 
Modern Bethlehem is a bustling, busy town filled with thousands of people. The major industry of Bethlehem is tourism (when there isn’t a war going on), and the most important site is the Church of the Holy Nativity in the center of the city.
 
It is built on the traditional site of Jesus’ birth and is one of the oldest churches in the Holy Land, having been first constructed on that site 1,700 years ago. , It has been built upon, added to, and restored many times over the centuries.
 
Way back in 1865, a Boston pastor named Phillips Brooks visited the Holy Land at Christmastime. When he got home, he wrote a Christmas carol, which his choir director set to music for their Christmas concert in 1867. We still sing it today.
 
“O little of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.”
 
He wrote it that way because 150 years ago Bethlehem was still a tiny village—a quiet and peaceful place.
 
Bethlehem is called the “city of David” because David grew up here along with his father Jesse and his seven brothers. In fact, David tended sheep in the fields outside the village just as the shepherds were doing the night the angel appeared to them.
 
There is one other fact you need to know. Seven hundred years earlier the Lord had spoken through the prophet Micah and declared that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
 
We find that prophecy in Micah 5:2
 
Notice the phrase “though you are small among the thousands of Judah.” That prophecy came from the Lord in 700 B.C. when Bethlehem was a tiny, inconsequential village. No one would ever have named it one of the Top Ten Vacation Spots in Israel. If you went there, you would find a few small houses and that’s about it.
The only reason there is anything going on there today is because of the birth of Christ.  When Jesus was born, Bethlehem was well off the beaten track.
 
However, the Jews knew that the Messiah would be born there. Matthew 2 tells us that when the wise men came to Herod in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is he who is King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Good question. Where is the Messiah going to be born? Herod gathered his theology council and asked them the same question.
 
They replied by quoting Micah 5:2 (you can find this episode in Matthew 2:1-6). That’s what I mean by the fact that the Jews knew. God had told them 700 years before exactly where Christ would be born. There was no secret about it at all.
 
By the way, have you ever wondered where the Magi got their information?  How did they know to come to this particular area?  Why didn’t they go in the opposite direction or stop somewhere between and inquire? 
 
To find the answer, we have to go back into the background of the wise men.  They are actually identified as Magi.  In a few English translations or paraphrases of Matthew 2—the Living, the New English, and the Phillips—the Greek word for the magi is rendered “astrologers.”
 
If you dig around in the history of that word you’ll find it comes from, of all places, a Babylonian root meaning “oriental scientist, wise man, astrologer, or seer.”
 
Why in the world would it root back to Babylon?  Well it is this ancient Babylonian word that would have been used to describe Daniel, as well as his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who served as advisors in the royal court of Babylon.   
 
This word had a much broader and higher meaning than the term “astrologer” as used today. It applied to the most highly educated individuals of their time and place. As a student of Hebrew Scripture, highly respected for both his character and his wisdom, Daniel, the Jewish captive, served as Babylon’s intellectual and spiritual leader.
 
And it was to Daniel that God sent word, by way of the angel Gabriel, of the time when Israel’s longed-for Messiah would come.
 
Listen to what we find in Daniel 9 25-26
 
Now at the time Daniel received and recorded this prophecy, he was serving as Chief Counsel in the Babylonian court and I think it safe to assume that the Babylonian wise men heard about it.
 
In fact, according to Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, and 32, each of “weeks in the vision represents seven years. This is the only detail Daniel received, but this one detail provided a critical clue for later generations.
 
It was actually Persia’s king Artaxerxes that issued the long-awaited decrees to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. These have been dated at approximately 444 or 445 BC and 457 BC.
 
 
And because of Daniel’s vision and prophecy, his successors were able to approximate the time and identity of the birth of the Messiah and show up right on time as we read in Matthew 2.  The magi knew Who they were looking for and when He should arrive.  What they didn’t get from Daniel was the place.  They just assumed than it would be in Daniel’s homeland. 
 
So guided by a star and expecting the leaders of Israel to be equally watchful, they show up in the capital city hoping to learn the exact location of the birth.  So they ask any Jew they could find where their Messiah is to be born, and the result is they stir up the whole city.   
 
Herod hears about what’s going on downtown and gets riled up himself and calls for the Jewish religious leaders to come and tell Him what’s going on and if they know where the Christ is to be born. 
 
They tell Herod about the prophecy of Micah and how the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.  So Herod calls the Magi in privately to get a little more information, primarily when the star appeared and tells them to go to Bethlehem and see what they can find out. 
 
Don’t you know they were surprised at how little the locals know about what is going on right there under their noses?  Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the magi, trained in all the “wisdom of the East and having nothing more than one isolated prophecy,  show up at the birth of Christ, eager to worship the one true God while those who are the “chosen people of God” don’t even know anything is going on?
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It fascinates me that these wise men show up in Jerusalem, expecting to find out that the Jewish Messiah has been born while these Jewish leaders, even though they knew where the baby was to be born, and even though Bethlehem was only a few miles south of Jerusalem, as far as we know, not a one of them cared enough to investigate for himself.
 
They were totally indifferent to the birth of the Messiah. They missed the most important event in world history because they couldn’t be bothered. 
 
We read about the “city of David” and are reminded that Jesus was born in fulfillment of a prophecy made 700 years earlier.  His people had anticipated His coming for centuries.  And yet while those who should have knew the most miss the birth, only three pagans from a distant land, with only one prophecy available to them are the ones who show up to worship.   
 
And that’s exactly the testimony of millions of America today.  They have been birthed, educated and exposed to more information about Christ than any people or generation that came before them. 
 
We are the beneficiaries of more preaching, music, evangelism than anybody else has ever had.  We have seminaries and schools, the internet, books, Bibles, and on and on the list goes.  And yet we don’t want Jesus in Christmas.  We don’t want Jesus in the schools.  We don’t want Jesus. Period.  
 
Is that not a stark reminder that knowledge alone is never enough to save us? 
The Jews alive at the time of Jesus are a glaring testimony that it’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know that makes the difference.
 
2. The Reality of His Coming
 
Let’s look again at the text. The angel says, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David.” Just focus on the three words—"born this day.” They speak to the fact that what happened in Bethlehem was nothing less than the birth of the Son of God.
 
There are two aspects to this truth I want to highlight. 
 
The first is that there were no miracles associated with the physical birth of Jesus Christ. Even though we often speak of the Virgin Birth of Christ, it’s important to remember that the real miracle took place nine months earlier when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary with the result that although she was a virgin, she became pregnant.
 
That was an enormous miracle that never occurred before and has never been repeated in the history of the world. Across the centuries, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ has been considered a foundational doctrine by Christians of virtually every denomination.
 
Both Matthew and Luke plainly ascribe the conception of Jesus Christ to the action of the Holy Spirit. Matthew uses phrases such as “through the Holy Spirit” and “from the Holy Spirit” to describe what happened.
 
Luke adds an intriguing phrase when he reports the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary. 
 
Luke 1:35
 
The verb for “overshadow” speaks of the direct, personal presence of God. What is the significance of Jesus being conceived by the Holy Spirit?
 
Since Jesus was born of Mary, we know that He was truly human. Since He was conceived through the Holy Spirit, we know that He was more than a man. The virgin birth was God’s way of announcing to the world that Jesus was indeed His Son.
 
Through the virgin birth, the Son of God entered the human race, taking upon Himself all aspects of true humanity, yet remaining sinless, and without surrendering any aspect of His deity.
 
That means the Babe in the manger was nothing less than God Himself.  He was fully God and yet fully man at the same time. Deity and humanity joined together.
 
And through some method unknown to us, during the “overshadowing,” the Holy Spirit of God created within the womb of Mary the human life of Jesus Christ. It is a pure miracle of the highest order. No one can explain it or duplicate it. Nothing can be compared to it because no other birth has been—or ever could be—like it.  Think about it.  At the conception of Jesus, the entire Trinity is present. And yet, there is no miracle.    
 
 
 
Following the miraculous conception, Mary’s pregnancy followed the normal course of all human pregnancies leading to the night in Bethlehem when she gave birth to the Lord Jesus in a stable. Although Luke gives no details, we may safely assume that the delivery itself was normal in every way.
 
 Or at least as normal as any birth could be under such trying circumstances. From time to time we read of women giving birth in strange places—in a car, in an airplane, at the mall, at a restaurant—sometimes alone, sometimes attended by a very frightened husband.
 
Such instances are normal births that happen in extraordinary circumstances. The birth of Jesus falls into that category—a true event that took place in a normal way in a very abnormal situation.
 
Second, it’s important to remind ourselves that the phrase “this day” means that it really happened.
 
Francis Schaeffer used to talk about “lower-story” truth and “upper-story” truth. “Lower-story” truth is made up of the facts of history—the who, what, when and where of events that really happened at a certain time in a place to particular people.
 
By contrast, “upper-story” truth refers to fables and stories—like the fables of Aesop—that everyone knows aren’t true but are meant to teach religious truth.
 
Many people today read Luke 2 and call it “upper-story” truth. It’s simply too fantastic to believe, or so they say.
One professor called it “theological fiction"—that is, a story made up by the early church to explain the uniqueness of Jesus.
 
Several years ago a group of liberal scholars got together in what they called the “Jesus Seminar".  They met in regard to whether or not the gospel stories of Jesus were true and they used colored rocks to vote.  
 
When they came to this part of the story of Jesus, they voted 24-1 against the biblical account of the Virgin Birth. This should not surprise us since there have always been skeptics who attacked the biblical record.
 
Notwithstanding those attacks, the Christian church has always professed its belief in the literal truth of the Virgin Birth. The ancient creeds put this way: “Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” This is one truth that has always been believed by all Christians everywhere. To use Francis Schaeffer’s term, the birth of Jesus is “lower-story” truth because it really and truly happened.
 
So when we read “unto you is born this day in the city of David,” let us remember that it points to something true—an event that really happened. Not a legend or a myth or a nicely-told fairy tale. Everything about the biblical account of the birth of Jesus is true, including the central truth that there really was a baby born in Bethlehem who really was the Son of God.
 
 
 
 
3. The Result of His Coming
 
Now we come to the climax of this verse: “A Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Here’s an interesting fact that comes from the Greek text of Luke 2. When Luke wrote his account, he didn’t use any articles to describe who Jesus is. It reads this way: Savior … Christ … Lord.
 
Each word is vitally important. Savior is actually an Old Testament word that means “One who delivers his people.” Christ is the Greek version of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means “the anointed One.” Lord is a term for Deity. It’s a synonym for God.
 
We desperately need a Savior, don’t we? When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph, he said, “Give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
 
A few days ago I received a letter from a prisoner in Wisconsin who had read An Anchor for the Soul. The oldest of five children, he came from a single-parent family. Seeking self-esteem and acceptance, he joined a gang as a young man. When he dropped out of school in the ninth grade, he could not read or write. He got into serious trouble when he was 17. He was arrested, tried and convicted of first-degree murder. Sentenced to life in prison, he has been behind bars for 19 years. This is his comment: “Dr. Pritchard, many had given up on me, but God never did! I was told that I would never amount to anything but God says otherwise. I was told that I would find death in prison but instead I found eternal life.” Investigators recently discovered DNA and other fingerprint evidence that evidently proves he did not commit the crime. He may soon be completely exonerated and released from prison. How does he feel about his 19 years behind bars?
 
I have been so overwhelmed by the grace and mercy of Christ—I’ve been given a wonderful peace that surpasses all understanding. I am absolutely convinced that had I not come to prison, my life would have been completely devastated beyond repair. It’s now been 19 years of incarceration and these years have been the most refreshing and enlightening years of my life—I am truly blessed beyond words.
 
Only the grace of God can enable a man to talk like that. He goes on to say he is writing a book about his life story called Saved by the Cell. That’s why Christ came—to be a Savior for everyone who will turn to him.
 
He is the Savior, he is the Lord, and he is the Christ—the one sent from God. This is the heart of Christmas. God loved us enough to send his only begotten Son. Think of it this way:
 
He didn’t send a committee.
 
He didn’t write a book.
 
He didn’t send a substitute.
 
When God got ready to save the world, he sent the best that he had—his one and only Son. And in sending Jesus, he was really sending himself. This is the stupendous truth of Christmas—Immanuel—God with us.
 
4. The Purpose of His Coming
 
Our text contains one final truth for our consideration. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David.” Consider those two words: “unto you.”
 
Pause for a moment and consider who was speaking and who was being addressed. When the shepherds heard these words from the angel, they must have been flabbergasted. We forget that shepherds were near the bottom of the social order of ancient Israel. They were often poor and uneducated and some were quite young.
 
Not very many people would pick “shepherd” on their Career Preference Form. There were many easier ways to make a living in ancient Israel. So when the angel says, “To you is born,” he’s really saying, “Christ came for lowly shepherds.” But what about those theologians in Jerusalem who knew but didn’t care? He came for them too, but they missed it altogether.
 
When Christ came, his birth was first announced to the outcasts of society. They were the first ones to hear the good news of Christmas. There is a great lesson in this for all of us. Our Lord came for the forgotten people of the earth and most of the time they are the ones who receive him with the greatest joy. Rich people often have no time for Christ, but the poor welcome him as an honored guest.
 
Let me now make a simple application. The angel said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” “Unto you.” “For you.” He came for you.
This is where Christmas becomes intensely personal. It’s not enough to say abstractly that you believe Christ came. Millions of people say that and are still lost in their sins. It’s not enough to say that Christ came for someone else.
 
You can never be saved until you say, “Christ came for me. He died for me. He rose from the dead for me.”
 
He came for you. Do you believe that?
 
In four days Christmas will be here. Families will gather around the tree to open their presents. Already some children are counting the hours until that glad moment arrives. When you receive your gifts this Christmas, what will you do? Will you not open them? What use is a gift that is never opened?
 
Two thousand years ago God sent a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to you. But you will never experience Christmas joy until you personally receive God’s gift—the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Christ came to save us from our sin-—but even his death on the cross cannot save us until we believe in him.
 
A man traveled a great distance for an interview with a distinguished scholar. He was ushered into the man’s study, where he said, “Doctor, I notice that the walls of your study are lined with books from the ceiling to the floor. No doubt you have read them all. I know you have written many yourself.
 
You have traveled extensively, and doubtless you’ve had the privilege of conversing with some of the world’s wisest men. I’ve come a long way to ask you just one question.
 
Tell, me, of all you’ve learned, what is the one thing most worth knowing?” Putting his hand on his guest’s shoulder, the scholar replied with emotion in his voice, “My dear sir, of all the things I have learned, only two are really worth knowing. The first is, I am a great sinner, and the second is, Jesus Christ is a great Savior!”
 
If you know those two things personally, you know the best news in the whole world, that a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord!
 
Joy the world, the Lord is come. Amen.
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