In words immortalised in the Authorised Version, the angels who appeared to the shepherds at the time of the birth of Jesus praised God, and said:
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Good will toward men.
It’s a lovely thought, and captures so much of what we all long for. What’s not to like about ‘peace on earth’ and ‘good will toward men’? It’s ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, isn’t it? If only we could do ‘peace’ and ‘good will’ all year round, the world would be a much better place.…
It is generally supposed that Joseph, like Mary, came from Nazareth. At the time of the census, he travelled, with his wife-to-be, to Bethlehem, his ancestral home. After Jesus’ birth he took his little family to Egypt, in order to escape the threat of Herod. And then, after that threat subsided, they returned to their hometown of Nazareth.
Stephen Carlson argues that Bethlehem was Joseph’s actual family home, and not just his ancestral home. Two reasons: (a) the is no record of a census requiring a man to return to his ancestral home; (b) Lk 2:39 (‘…to a town of their own’) implies that Joseph and Mary made Nazareth their home after the birth. …
Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
So translated by AV, ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, God’s Word, Good News.
NIV – ‘…because there was no guest room available for them.’
New Living Translation – ‘…because there was no lodging available for them.’
The word kataluma normally meant guest room, although it could mean house or inn.…
The Virgin Birth (more precisely, the virginal conception) is attested in a number of ways in Matthew and Luke:-
(1) The sharp contrast between the long series of verses that use “begot” and the statement that Joseph was “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” (Mt. 1:16) clearly implies that a man was not involved in the procreation of Jesus.
(2) Mt. 1:18 states, “Before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.”…
Bible commentator William Hendriksen, while expressing some sympathy for artistic representations of biblical scenes, rightly asks if some images of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) give the correct impression.
Take, as an example, ‘Good Tidings’ by the artist William Plockhurst.
‘The sheep are huddled together in some kind of pen. Right near them are a few shepherds. Leaning against one of these sturdy men is the faithful shepherd’s dog.…
1. In Luke 2:19 we read that ‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ How do you think Luke knew that?
2. What, in particular in this passage, do you think that Mary would have really ‘treasured’ and ‘pondered’?
3. Which aspects of the story of Jesus’ birth are most likely to be neglected in the way that Christmas is celebrated today?
God might have been expected to announce the birth of his Son with a flourish: but he choose otherwise.…
Ian Paul has commented on the thoughts of David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, about the distinctive needs of occasional church attenders (i.e. those who might attend an annual carol service, but not much else).
In addition to some sensible, if unremarkable, suggestions (stick to traditional words of carols, mention other events coming up in your calendar, and so on) David Walker offers the following advice:-
Ian Paul rightly asks, Why? Why is it really not a good idea to preach a sermon at a carol service? …
At Christmas, fact and fiction, truth and legend, are mixed so thoroughly that even preachers include what they should have left out, and leave out what they should have included.
The late Dick France wrote:-
Steve Matthew has six ‘thou shalt nots’ in connection with preaching from the Bible’s nativity accounts. I summarise:-
- Don’t skip the genealogy in Matthew 1. Even a person with a fairly limited knowledge of the Old Testament will find that many of the names fairly leap off the page: men and woman, saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles.
To the seasonally tongue-tied among us, Donald Whitney suggests that the following could get a meaningful conversation going in almost any Christmas situation. It will be noticed that the later questions in the list would help in moving the conversation to a deeper level:-
- What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
- What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
- What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
- What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?