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The Irony in the Christmas Story - Part 1
Text: Luke Ch. 2:1-20/ Matt. 2:1-12
We are taking a break from the Genesis text again this Christmas season to present you all with another Christmas story. So, the next couple weeks we’ll look at:
Today -- What is so right, in what seems so out of place?
Luke 2:1-20 - “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Irony -- a state of affairs, or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
Irony -- a situation that is strange or funny, because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.
1. The first irony of the Christmas message was the fact that – The grandparents didn’t show up for His birth.
Vs. 4-7 - “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Every 5 years, Rome conducted a census, at which time every adult male was required to travel to his place of birth, to be counted in the census and pay their taxes. For Rome, it was a time to replenish their coffers, and to evaluate their strength as a nation.
For those returning to their hometowns – and, in addition to their civic duty to pay taxes the Census became a time for family reunions, a time to get everyone together, to see the relatives they hadn’t seen for awhile. They would have huge celebrations and many houses would be filled with extended family.
Bethlehem was a rural area. It was a small community which raised sheep to sell for Passover. It was a community made up of cattle farmers, shepherds, and merchants. And, like most small town communities, the businesses were run by locals. The locals in Bethlehem were all descendants of David.
In one way or another they were all related, either by birth or marriage.
The social norm in Judaism was - Anytime a relative from out of town returned to their community it was the responsibility of their relatives to house and host them.
It was also customary to help people in need; especially a mother having a baby.
No one in this town would put a pregnant woman about to deliver a baby out in the cold.
You would call 911.
You would make her comfortable.
You would call the doctor.
You would do everything in your power to make sure the baby’s birth was safe.
The Birth of the firstborn was a tremendous celebration.
- All the women of the family would gather to assist the new mother,
- the local midwives would be in attendance to help with the delivery of the newborn
- the men would hold vigil with the soon to be father.
- and, the grandparents, and aunts and uncles would all show up to celebrate the birth of the firstborn.
ALL OF THAT WAS MISSING AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
Listen. This is huge. NO ROOM IN THE INN – was more than a vacancy issue - it was a cultural position which shut out those who didn’t comply with social expectations.
So, when scripture says, There was no room for them...it didn’t mean there wasn’t an available place for them to stay - it meant, no one wanted them to stay with them.
No room in the Inn -- meant both sides of the family had distanced themselves from the birth of this baby.
Mary and Joseph’s parents would have also been required by Roman law to show up in Bethlehem, but they didn’t bother to show up for the birth of their grand-baby.
In a strong Matriarchal society – the community matriarchs would make public examples of “Girls who messed up”. Girls who got pregnant out of wedlock were given the cold shoulder. They were ignored.
No room in the Inn – was a religious statement – We don’t have use for people who mess up.
Listen to the irony of all this:
- Mary and Joseph’s story matched the prophetic promise given by Micah telling where the baby would be born – Micah 5: 2-3 - “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.”
- Mary and Joseph’s story matched the prophecy of Isaiah – Isaiah 7:14 - “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
- Mary and Joseph’s story matched the prophecy of Balaam – in Numbers 24:17 - “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”
You would have thought that -- The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce would have appointed a PLANNING COMMITTEE, to plan for the Advent of their Messiah.
They should have placed billboards on both ends of town saying, Future home and birthplace of the Messiah.
You woulda thought that Bethlehem would have appointed a SEARCH COMMITTEE to carefully watch for signs and stories of pregnant women, looking for someone to meet the criteria of scripture.
At least, when the news of Mary’s pregnancy leaked out and spread like wildfire through the gossip train, you woulda hoped that at least one dear sister in the church would have bothered to pray about it and read their bible and suggest that maybe MARY COULD BE THE FULFILLMENT OF ISAIAH’S PROPHECY.
But, somewhere along the line the locals of Bethlehem stopped looking for the Messiah.
They didn’t care about the Prophecy surrounding their little city. And, they didn’t bother to compare Mary’s notes with God’s notes.
- The people of Bethlehem did what people often do... • they chose to believe the worst
- they didn‘t bother to read the word of God
- they chose not to believe God’s word
- And, they wrote off the people who did believe and obey.
The fact the Bethlehem locals refused to believe and made no room for Christ’s birth is one thing - but -
for Mary and Joseph’s family to miss the event is another. What is so right = in what seems so out of place?
Mary and Joseph were cheated of their family’s blessing at the birth of Christ – but they had the blessing of God.
If you have to make a choice – Choose God’s blessing over the blessings of your family and friends. Following God’s will and fulfilling His plan for your life doesn’t guarantee the support of others. But follow God’s plan anyway.
The world will use the negatives surrounding your life to mar your reputation; while God uses the negatives in your life to shape your character and accomplish His purpose. Your reputation is not what matters to God. God is looking for your obedience. When you’re all alone – God will be there with you. If you have to choose between someone who will leave you versus someone who will never leave...pick the Lord, He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Don’t measure the success of your life based on the opinions of the crowd. The greatest gifts are often discovered in places where you feel all alone when it's just YOU AND GOD. Don’t base life’s celebration on the approval of other people, as long as you are in the will of God all of Heaven will celebrate with you.
Join us next week as we look at the second irony in the Christmas story. Blessing to you all.