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This past Sunday I reached the zenith of my creativity. Some of you know that’s not too high. But anyway, I outlined Luke 2:1-20 using Christmas hymns:
1. O little town of Bethlehem (vv. 1-7)
2. While shepherds watched their flocks (vv. 8-9)
3. What Child is this? (vv. 10-12)
4. Angels we have heard on high (vv. 13-14)
5. Go, tell it on the mountain (vv. 15-20)
I know some of you creative folks are laughing, but this was a huge accomplishment. But, that’s not important right now…
Luke’s version of the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life–the incarnation–highlights Mary’s statement in 1:52 “he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” For instance, in Luke 2:1-2 we read of mighty rulers who will soon lose their thrones. In v. 4 we read again of Nazareth, the town with a nasty reputation according to John’s gospel. In that same verse we read of Bethlehem, which, according to Micah 5:2, was too little to be the birthplace of a ruler. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are examples of the exaltation of those of humble estate. And, then, of course, we have Jesus being laid “in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (2:7).
In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Yancey writes, “it seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstance possible for His entrance.” Rarely, if ever, does one celebrate humiliation. But we do these weeks! Jesus laid in a feed box, possibly a depression in the cold ground in a cave or stable. You can’t get any more humble estate than that! The highest level of mercy took the highest level of humility.
And, then, there’s the presence of shepherds. I don’t know of any other class of people more despised in Jesus’ day, but more adored in our day during Christmas time. It’s not unusual that they were working the graveyard shift that night; it is highly unusual that God saw fit to send the Angel of the Lord to them. Another example of God doing what Mary said in Luke 1:52, exalting those of humble estate. And besides making sure we all believe the message of the angel of the Lord and the Christmas angels, the shepherds provide an example for Christians to follow. They heard God’s message, believed it, and shared it. Who else could God have told who would have responded like the shepherds? Imagine God sending His messenger to royalty, announcing that a Savior, a Lord was born? Imagine august Augustus’ response. No, it’s best for us to take our place with “those of humble estate.”