Severe Mercy


Luke 2:1-14

Key Verse 2:11


“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”


The first Christmas! A most beautiful story ever told. A story of God’s love for the fallen world. A story of a love expressed through sacrifice. A story of forgiveness, and of peace and joy. Christmas today may be many things to many people. But for us, it must be a time to experience God’s love for us through his Son and to love him back.


Verses 1-3 say. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.” An absolute order from a despot, with no exemptions! Neither Joseph was exempt nor Mary, who was in full term of her pregnancy. The journey to Bethlehem was long and difficult. But the author goes on to say in verses 4-5 that “Joseph” “went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”


Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary simply went on to Bethlehem to register. What he didn’t tell us was how much they must have suffered to obey such a difficult decree. Joseph had to put his livelihood on hold until he returned. And Mary— well Mary was in full term. It was difficult whether she walked those 100 miles or rode on a donkey. While the whole world grumbled and complained at this decree, these two didn’t. They had faith to see that nothing happens in this world apart from God’s counsel. They believed that God in his wisdom was the one directing their lives and all the affairs of their lives according to his wisdom. As long as God was guiding their steps, no hardship was too difficult to overcome. They simply followed the guiding hand of God in their lives and made it to Bethlehem.


And the story is only just beginning. Read verses 6 and 7. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The author tells us simple facts of the birth. But at the same time they describe the circumstances through which the Son of God was born. We see a young woman giving birth in a stable and laying her baby in a manger. This traditional Christmas scene looks beautiful on a Christmas card. But if we go beyond the artistic and sentimental value of this scene and take a good look at the reality of things, we cringe at the tragedy. It tells us of the social situation and the epitome of a degraded humanity. A woman was about to give birth. But no one offered her a room. No one helped her! Why? Perhaps because most of them suffered as well. And in their tragic sufferings, instead of looking out for each other, we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to what’s happening around us. They had become like everyone else, selfish and indifferent.  A world of “each man to himself”— that hasn’t changed much. God gave each of us a heart that is capable of understanding another person’s pain— and reach out in love and compassion. But when we let our conscience become numb, here is what happens. A woman in pain is abandoned— a baby is born in sorrow. Yet God led Mary and Joseph to a stable.


The baby boy— the Son of God was born. He was born in poverty— in rejection—  abandoned and cast out by the world. The question is did it have to happen in this way? No one wants their baby to be born like this! Yet— it had to happen this way because God willed it to be so.


Look at verses 8-12. Now God wanted to announce the birth of his Son to the world. But it baffles us as to whom God chose to announce this great news. God sent his angel to shepherds living in the fields. They too were destitute, working on the bottom of society. They were nameless people of little significance to the world. The birth of Jesus was the greatest event of all time. But it had to be announced to ordinary people. And “…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” This was the true message of Christmas.


Jesus came to make us rich. The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2Cor.8:9) What is a real treasure? What is real poverty? Who is rich in the sight of God and who is poor? People measure treasure by worldly possessions. But God does not see it this way. People are often too poor even if they have a good job and a nice family— we are still poor. I am spiritually poor if my soul is empty. I am poor when my life has no meaning. I am poor when my heart finds room for everything else but not for God. People wonder why their lives are empty and lonely, even though they are humanly comfortable. But they are empty because God is not in their hearts. But no one has to remain like this. Jesus became poor in order to fill hearts with meaning and purpose and joy and honor— something this world cannot give even if they own it. Jesus came in poverty to bring God into our hearts and lives. All we have to do is to open our hearts to him. His Son came to make this happen for us.


Jesus came to save us from our sins. Sin is the cause of our anguish of soul. Al our fears and shame and guilt and sorrow— all come because of sin. People do not know this, but the truth is that the greatest enemy we have is sin. So we needed to be saved from our sin, because there is nothing in this world that can do that. And God loved us enough to give us a Savior. To save us from our sins, Jesus came to this world to suffer and die to give us pardon for our sins and to do away with them once for all. And all we need to do is to invite him in, and say thank for doing this Lord. That is the good news of great joy. The news that in the anguish of our sins, when we had messed up our lives, God loved us, and gave us his Son to forgive us and to change our lives to the glory of God. To ignore, resist, or reject the gift of salvation does not make sense. It is a gift that should be received with all our hearts in gratitude.


Jesus is our Savior but he is also Christ the Lord. Read verse 11. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” “Christ the Lord” means that Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God sent him to be the King and Lord of all things in heaven and on earth— especially of our own lives. God appointed Jesus to rule our hearts and lives with love and peace. People search for real peace and real love to fill the thirst of their hearts. Young people are desperate for love but they can’t find it anywhere. Older people are desperate for peace and security but they cannot find it nowhere. But real love and real peace and security can only be found through Jesus Christ. And the good news is that did it. He gives it to us for the asking. When Christ rules the heart, there is love without end. There is peace without end.


There is something else that is beautiful in this Christmas story. Read verse 12. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The sign to you! It is incredible that such a small and insignificant sign is the mark of the Savior. How is it that the greatest event in history commands such a small sign? Because that’s how our God is— his character. God is humble. God’s work— the way he works— the things he does— are humble! God works quietly through small and humble things in to accomplish his great things. God and his work are always like a baby in a manger in a stable. God works in humble hearts. He works in humble things— away from the glittering glory of the world.


This world despises the weak and the humble things of God. Those who do not recognize the manger because it is small and insignificant, cannot see God nor find him because they are looking for him in the wrong places. But the sign of the manger is God’s wisdom to finding God. It challenges the hearts of those who are proud and it moves the hearts of the humble— those who have faith to see God where God is. Each one of us should examine our hearts to rid them of pride and to take up humility instead— that we may see the sign of God’s grace and mercy everywhere— wherever God is in the small and humble things all around us. That is where God is, and that is where we can find the love of God— usually in a manger in a stable. Really consider the manger, how small, and insignificant it is. Consider the baby who seems helpless in it. Yes in him God worked out the greatest work of all time. He worked out his own plan to save us from our sins. To bring us to this loving Jesus in humility and faith— to forgive us and to give us life. In the light of the manger of our Lord, let us lift our hears to heaven in gratitude and thanksgiving. Thank you Lord, that you came in poverty and sorrow to forgive my sins, to give me life and joy and peace. In this world of trouble, give me peace. Give me also forgiveness, make me as forgiving and loving as you are, that through me all people may know that you are indeed the good news—  the best new now and always. Lord make my heart sing with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

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