The Christmas Story Is Suffering

mangerLuke 2:1-21 (KJV)1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

I often talk to other Christians about suffering and pain. People often ask me “Why is God allowing me to go through this?”, and the “this” they are talking about is never a good thing. My answer is usually in two parts.

I don’t know why”
But I do know that God loves you”

As I looked at what we call “The Christmas Story” this year and meditated on it I was impressed by God’s Spirit over the suffering that God put His Son Jesus through. Now I know that the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Spirit. And Jesus never doubted the love of His Father. He said in :

John 3:35 (ESV) The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

John 5:20 (ESV) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. …

Jesus never doubted the love of His Father. Yet when Jesus came into the world His birth was filled with suffering. When we read the Christmas Story we hear how

Luke 2:1-5 (KJV) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child ….

I want you to notice that

Mary Was Great With Child

She was in her last Trimester, with all the swelling and suffering that goes with pregnancy. Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should be taxed and there were no exceptions to that rule. You went to your home town and were taxed and counted, or you were guilty of treason and could be killed for it. Caesar didn’t care, and neither did the Roman Government. You went. Mary had to go. Nearly every Christmas Card shows Mary riding on the back of a donkey? Did she? The Bible doesn’t tell us this. As it was 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem it is likely that Joseph put her on some beast of burden to aid her in the journey. The wealthy used horses and wagons for travel, and neither Joseph nor Mary were wealthy. This would have been a hard trip even for a woman who was not “great with Child”.

Where Were Mary and Joseph’s Parents?

Joseph and Mary had parents. According to Matthew 1:16 Joseph’s daddy was called Jacob. In Luke 3:23 we see that Joseph is the Son-In-Law of Heli, who was Mary’s daddy. Yet throughout the Gospels – and particularly in the Christmas Story – the parents of Joseph and Mary are missing in action. In those days families traveled together, and since Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to be taxed it is certain that their parents would also have to go. Since all the family had to go to be taxed and since Mary was “great with Child” wouldn’t their parents have accompanied them? Yet the parents are not mentioned. Why?

I suspect much of this had to do with the virgin birth of Christ. Though the Angel told both Mary and Joseph that Christ was being born of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:35 & Matthew 1:20) there is no indication in Scripture that their parents were so informed. It is possible that Mary’s pregnancy was perhaps viewed by the immediate family as an indiscretion, the result of sexual sin. Whether this is the case or not it is a fact that Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem alone. Their parents are not there to help them.

Luke 2:6-7 (KJV) And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Where Is The Midwife, The Helpers, The Doctor?

Mary was giving birth to the Son of God – who was there to help her? Only Joseph. Most women in those days were assisted in birth by a midwife, but there is no midwife. Mary and Joseph are dispossessed strangers, homeless. In any birth the Child would be received into loving arms, cleaned up, then placed in its mother’s arms. Mary bore Jesus then, exhausted, put that Baby in a manger, a straw lined trough. More than likely there were animals in the place where they were, and Joseph had to keep the animals from the manger. Can you imagine how humiliating this is for the parents, how humiliating for Joseph who loved his wife.

No doctor delivered Jesus.
No grandparents held the little Jesus in their arms.
He was laid in a manger.
Not in a crib, but a manger.
The Son of God had no room in the Inn.
Just in a manger.

But they weren’t alone. The angels were watching. I can imagine the angels of God watching the birth of the Son of God unfold. Now no angel in his right mind would question what Almighty God was doing. But I suspect what was happening was causing a stir. Joseph and Mary are alone in the barn until Christ is born. God has entered humanity. And God is to be worshiped. The Bible tells us that:

Luke 2:8-9 (KJV) And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

God’s glory shined round about these shepherds. His Shekinah Glory filled the night. The Father had just bore a Son, God had become Man, and God must be worshiped. The Apostle wrote:

Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV) Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

That word has been in my heart all week. Our God is a consuming fire. His Kingdom shall prevail. Though the darkness try to strangle His glory, the Light shines through the darkness. The suffering has a purpose. It is not indifference that has brought the Son of God to a manger, but it is so that those who are trapped in darkness can see the bright light of God’s love.

God loves His Son, but caused Him to suffer even from the beginning.

He suffered so that He could be a Savior to all the people. The Angel told the Shepherds:

Luke 2:10-11 (KJV) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The birth of Christ is good tidings of great joy to ALL people. To

Red and Yellow, Black and White
They are precious in His sight

The Savior is born, which is Christ the Lord. This helpless Baby is Christ, the Messiah. But He is also “The Lord”. Where will the Lord be found? The Angel tells the Shepherds:

Luke 2:12 (KJV) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

There were perhaps hundreds of babies born that very night all throughout the land, and every one of those babies would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. But only one Baby would be found lying in a manger. Every other baby would be cradled in a crib or in a parents arms. But Mary exhausted would lay her prized bundle down.

The sign of the Savior is that He is lying in a manger.
The sign of the Savior is that He is suffering.

The same Isaiah that foretold the virgin birth of Christ also foretold His suffering. The Prophet wrote:

Isaiah 53:2-9 (ESV) For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Jesus Christ is the Lamb born for our salvation. From the Manger to the Cross to the Grave His life was one of suffering. Yet He chose the suffering. He chose the nails. He chose to come and give Himself for us. He chose to be born of a virgin, and chose to walk among us. The King left the palace and walked among the peasants. But more than this, God walked with us and will walk with us if we but receive Him as He is.

Christmas this year will fall on Sunday, and many will not come to worship Him because other things will take precedence. He IS LORD!

Family, friends, the Christmas meal, the gifts under the Christmas Tree, the children playing with toys. Many will not worship Jesus this Christmas because it inconveniently landed on a Sunday. So the day will take precedence over the Savior.

The Shepherds had the right idea. Though watching their sheep at night they did not hesitate to leave their job and go to see the Savior.

Luke 2:15-16 (KJV)And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Shepherds did not dawdle, nor did the Angel command that they go to Bethlehem. No, they went with haste to where Jesus laid. Oh Lord, deliver us as your people from indifference. God’s people are to be on fire for Jesus! The Bible says that we are to be …

Titus 2:13-14 (ESV) .. waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

God’s people are called to passionately want to see Him who is the Christ, the Lord. So many are passionate about anyone and anything but Christ. Jesus warned,

Matthew 6:20-21 (ESV) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For many they treasure the things of this world, the relationships of this world, the business of this world, and yet have little thought of Heaven. If Heaven and the Christ of the Manger and of the Cross is rarely on your minds then will you be in His Heaven one day? The Shepherds did not delay. “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass”. God took the time to tell us. God took the time to be incarnate. We can at least take the time to see Him.

Luke 2:17 (KJV) And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

The Shepherds did not immediately return to their sheep following their visit to the Manger. They went throughout the town telling others about Jesus. Did any others come to the Manger that night? The Bible doesn’t tell us that ANY came. People were busy celebrating, eating, coming together as families, much like we do every Christmas. We are told:

Luke 2:18 (KJV) And all they that heard it WONDERED at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

For many, then Christ is lost in Christmas. They “wondered” the Greek θαυμάζω thaumazō which means “to marvel at, to admire”. They were fascinated by the story, but no one headed over to the Manger to see what the Shepherds saw. And they lost a blessing.

Luke 2:20 (KJV) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The Shepherds were blessed because they did not stay at home in their comfort zone. They went. They both “heard and saw” the Christ, experiencing Jesus, and were blessed by Him. You will always be blessed when you both hear and do the will of God. Christ was born to be the Savior of all who believe in Him.

Jesus suffered for us, so that He can be with us in our suffering.

May God lead you closer to Him this Christmas Day!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. I am looking for the Church. Most of what I see today is not the Church, but clubs, where members sit in padded pews and drink deeply of self. I am looking for a people willing to be righteous not self righteous, serving not served, In short, I am looking and praying for a people who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. I hope I find this people before it's too late.
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