© Gregory L. Jackson, 1999
A Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304
#8 The Birth of Jesus, Luke 2:1-19
The birth of Jesus is well known to everyone. We should pay close attention to the more familiar passages, so that we do not miss what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. In this case we should show the children how Joseph and Mary suffered even though they were given the great honor of raising the Son of God.
1. The youngest children should learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. The Son of God was born in an area reserved for the animals, because no one had room for the family or cared about their needs.
2. Grade school children can make a distinction between birth in a clean hospital, being placed in a basinette, and being born among animals and placed in a feeding trough (manger).
3. Confirmation age children should consider the cross the family experienced in the midst of unique honor. The Word always brings the cross.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
The primary cause of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, a village near Jerusalem, was the taxation policy of the Roman Empire. The city of Rome had expanded until it controlled vast territories linked with the superhighways of their time. Jesus’ homeland had been so troubled that the Greek Empire took it over centuries before. Later, when another rebellion erupted, the Roman Empire took control. For the Jews, it was like Russia taking over America and having troops in every major city to keep the peace. Even more bitter was paying taxes to support the foreign troops who had the power to kill and to jail.
Caesar used the force of law to bring this inconsequential family to Bethlehem, but God determined long before that the Messiah would be born in tiny Bethlehem.
The census and taxation involved most of the known world:
Haggai 2:6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of All Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
Bethlehem means “house of bread” in Hebrew. Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
As Joseph and Mary climbed uphill to reach Bethlehem, from the low-lying Galilee where they lived, all these events were taking place, one after another, to fulfill what God had promised since Genesis 3:15, the First Gospel (promise).
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Imagine Joseph and Mary trudging uphill for days to reach Bethlehem. Mary is ready to deliver. They tell each other, “Someone will give us a room. Surely our relatives have a place for us.” They deserved a rest and some care, but we can see that no one took them in. The inn put them in the animal stable. A mother wants the best for her first-born, the cleanest room, the cleanest bed, the best care for a safe delivery. It must have pained Mary to bear such a great promise and have so little comfort. Joseph must have felt the burden, too, caring for his wife and the promised Savior.
The Christmas pageant always has a nice clean manger to place a baby boy or doll in. But a manger was a feeding trough. We do not think about the donkey and cow slobber in the bed where Jesus lay, or the animal smells and sounds. The swaddling cloths were strips of clothing to wrap the baby in His poverty.
And yet, God watched over this event. Mary was safely delivered. Jesus was healthy. They did not become sick from bacteria, as they might have. In such poor surroundings, the power of God was even more apparent. We should also trust in God’s power and not worry about our poor surroundings. God will never leave us, but always care for us, often in the most remarkable ways.
1. Compare the birth of Jesus to the birth of a baby in your family. Think about where the birth took place, how many people helped, how many presents were given.
2. Why was Jesus not born to royalty and helped by a doctor in a marble palace? (Answer: The poor and weak would think of Jesus as a Savior for the rich and powerful.)
3. What comes to mind when you think of the Son of God as a tiny baby? Are you afraid of Him? (Children often answer: “No one is afraid of a baby.”)
4. How is Jesus revealed to be the true Son of God in this passage? (All the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at this point. Jesus is the only person born of a virgin.)
5. How is God’s power shown in the taxation? (Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world. God used the ruler’s plan to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Therefore, Caesar helped to fulfill prophecies from centuries before.)
6. Color the picture of Mary and Jesus.
7. Would you care for the baby Jesus? Change His diapers? Wash His clothes? Help Mary and Joseph? Then you should do the same for your neighbor.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.