Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Guest Room - Advent Midweek 3 - December 17, 2014 - Text: Luke 2:1-7
Our text is Luke 2:1-7: 1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And 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, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And 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. This is our text.
This year our Advent through Christmas and New Year’s Eve theme has been taking us from the promise of a Messiah to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. We began two weeks ago hearing some of the promises or prophecies and we heard how those promises and prophecies had their fulfillment according to God’s perfect timing. Last week we revisited some of the timing issues that have been in the Nativity Tradition for so many years. This evening we want to take the time to scrutinize some of the extra Biblical people and items that have been in our Christmas Nativity Tradition to see if our tradition really does follow the Bible. Our purpose is to make sure we get it right so that when we tell others they will not come back later and say, hey, you mixed up some stuff or added some stuff in and thus will not believe anything we say.
First let us take a look at God’s hand in the actions that took place in the timing and the placing of those involved in the events of the fulfillment of God’s Word. First, God had to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. So, how does God get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? They got to Bethlehem because Quirinius who was the governor of Syria called for a registration of all his citizens. Quirinius was a historic person so we can know the time of his rule and the validity of the facts of this historical account. Thus, God used the call for a census by a human governor to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
Why the city of Bethlehem? God brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for several reasons, all of which bring about the culmination of the fulfillment of His prophecy concerning the Christ He would send. God brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem because they were from the line of the Children of Israel who were given Bethlehem as their allotted portion of the promised land. They were brought to Bethlehem because they were from the house of King David. They were brought to Bethlehem at the time of the birth of the Christ so that these prophecies might be fulfilled.
What about the timing and room of the birth? Our traditional Christmas rendering, that is our usual children’s Christmas program as well as television and Hollywood movies bring Mary and Joseph rushing into Bethlehem frantically seeking a place to stay because Mary is in labor and is about to have her baby on the donkey on which she is riding. Kind of like having a baby in the cab on the way to the hospital I would suppose. Certainly this brings good drama and suspense to the program, but is that really what we read had happened. Again, as I have said many times before, sometimes we need to go back and see what the Bible really does say. And what the Bible says does not really indicate any type of rushing into town looking for a room, rather it says that she gave birth “while they were there.” This “while they were there” indicates that they may have been there for some time, not simply rushing into town.
Okay, so they did not rush into town looking for a place to stay, but what about the fact that we hear every year how all the hotels, all the inns were full? Again, let us go back to see what the Bible really says. First let us take a look at the meaning of the word “inn,” since we are told there was no room in the “inn.” The word that is translated as “inn” is the word “kataluma” which means guest room. And actually this is the same word Jesus used when He told His disciples to prepare the Passover, the only difference is that in the Gospel of Matthew it is translated as “guest room” not inn. But what about the translation that calls it an “inn?” There is a actually a different word that is translated as “inn,” and that is the word pandochion. In the parable of the Good Samaritan we are told that after bandaging his wounds the Samaritan took the man to an “inn” and paid the “innkeeper” to take care of the man that had been beaten.
So, when Mary and Joseph came into town, they looked for a place to stay among their relatives, remember this was the city of their tribe or clan. Because there was an influx of people coming into town to register all the upper rooms or guest rooms had already been taken by other relatives so instead of staying in the upper room or guest room Mary and Joseph stayed with the rest of the family in the main part of the house.
As for the matter of the manger or feeding trough in which the baby Jesus was laid. In the main part of the house where the family lived, the animals were kept in the house especially at night with the family. In order to feed the animals a manger or feeding trough was necessary. This manger would have been either a carved out stone trough or a wooden trough.
Finally, we are told that Joseph was to be registered with Mary to whom he was betrothed. To be betrothed meant more than what is meant by being engaged in our society and culture today. To be engaged today simply means two people intend to get married. To be betrothed meant that they were actually married, just not exercising their marital benefits. If the betrothal was to be broken it would have had to be broken by a divorce. Thus, Mary and Joseph were not married, yet they had also not consummated the marriage and so Christ was born of a virgin.
What does this mean? As always, this means that God’s Word is faithful and true and can be trusted. This means that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the One promised in Eden and reiterated throughout the Old Testament. This means that Jesus was born in Bethlehem just as God had foretold, thus this means prophecy fulfilled.
Jesus was born of a virgin meaning that His mother was the human woman Mary making Him completely human and His Father was the Holy Spirit making Him completely divine or truly God. Jesus was not half man and half God but one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God. He had to be God in order to be born in perfection for us. He had to be human in order to trade, or substitute His life for ours, to redeem us, to buy us back, to reconcile our account with Himself. Jesus was born of a virgin, prophecy fulfilled.
Jesus continues to beat the odds of one man fulfilling all the promises of the Old Testament giving us confidence, not in His beating the odds, but in God’s Word which does what it says and gives what it says. Jesus did fulfill, not just one, not just some, but all of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus is true God in human flesh. Jesus was perfect for us in our place. Jesus has done it all and He gives it all to us.
So, even though human beings may get certain facts out of wack at times, and even though our traditions may not tell the story in the exact way, we still have God’s Word, a Word which is alive and still speaks to us today. Perhaps, again, before we begin quoting or misquoting God’s Word we would do well to go back and make sure God says what we are saying He says. And that might simply be a good reminder to us to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, reading God’s Word, daily, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing the most beautiful words of forgiveness and partaking of our Lord’s body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine in His most holy meal. And indeed the gifts God gives through the means He gives them are most certain indeed and we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.