Born in Bethlehem

Home Church Service 3/20/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:4-12 (NASB)

From November 1976 through April 1979, in six American cities, the King Tut exhibit raised eyebrows and caused commotion at every stop. People lined up for hours to see the Boy-King who took the throne at the age of nine and died at 18 or 19. The discovery of his tomb alone caused enough of an uproar to last a lifetime. Many said the curse of the mummy was upon King Tuts tomb and those who discovered it would soon be cursed or worse. The tomb was said to have been robbed twice but the vast fortune of the young king said otherwise. There were many questions surrounding the Boy-King including where he was born and the relationship of his mother and father, who were said to be related and his own marriage supposedly to his half-sister. In 1978 Steve Martin had a hit record simply from poking fun at King Tut and the chaos that surrounded the exhibit wherever it went. One of the things Martin poked fun at was the city of the king’s birth, “Born in Arizona, He moved to Babylonia.”

In our passage this morning there is another city in the spotlight. This time it is a small city outside of Jerusalem and there is, in fact, a king involved with this city as well. The difference is not the chaos that followed after the death of the king in our passage, for His death was a sacrificial death meant for the salvation of many. Our king was Born in Bethlehem as the Promised Messiah and a perfect Passover sacrifice.

Because he is from the house and family of David, Mary and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem while Mary is with child, while there she gives birth to her firstborn son. Angels appear to shepherds in the fields to announce the Savior, Christ the Lord has been Born in Bethlehem.

Joseph belongs to the line of King David, so he and Mary must return to his hometown to be counted, while there Mary gives birth to a son. A birth announcement is given to nearby shepherds that the Messiah has been Born in Bethlehem. He is Christ the Lord.

The question we must asl ourselves as we examine this passage is, “Why is being Born in Bethlehem so important?”

Jesus must be Born in Bethlehem as the Savior of the world, because He is the perfect sacrifice to remove our sins.

1). Jesus must be Born in Bethlehem because He is the promised Messiah.

Bethlehem of Judea, the city of David, is the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah.

Luke chapter 2 gives us the fullest narrative of the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding that birth; this narrative is known by many as The Christmas Story. As we will see as we progress through our message this morning, there is a much deeper story here and it did not happen on or near December 25th. Luke begins by telling us of a census decreed for “all the inhabited earth.” This census would be used to tax people, cities and towns and will be used to fund the Roman Empire and its massive army. God will use this census to fulfill the prophesies of the promised Messiah from long ago.

Because of this census each person must return to their hometown to be registered, thus Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem. Luke goes to great pains to show exactly where Joseph and Mary were traveling from – Galilee, the city of Nazareth – and exactly where they to – Judea, the city of David, called Bethlehem. Why does Luke include such detail of going from and traveling to? Why is Bethlehem so important to our passage?

Let us consider first, the terrain to be travelled. Traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem meant traveling through the desert, boiling hot during the day and freezing cold at night. The ground is rocky and rough with not much more than a foot path worn to travel upon. Secondly, consider the means by which Joseph and Mary traveled. Joseph would likely walk the entire distance while Mary would split time between walking and riding on the back of a small donkey.

Thirdly, let us not forget Mary’s condition – she is likely 9 months pregnant at this point – nearly ready to deliver her firstborn child. Needless to say, these are less than ideal traveling conditions for anyone let alone a young soon to be mother. Finally, let us consider the distance traveled by the couple. Traveling from Galilee to Bethlehem meant covering a distance of approximately 90 miles.

Still, why is Bethlehem so important to this story? There is much that we already know about Bethlehem. First, any good Bible commentary or dictionary will tell you the name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Many can immediately remember the “I Am” statements of Jesus and recall that Jesus said in John 6:35. “I am the Bread of Life.” An interesting connection can be made in, the “Bread of Life” coming to the “House of Bread” to be born but that is not the most important connection.

Second, Luke tells us it is the city of David, that is, King David, Israel’s favorite ruler and king and the birthplace of David, thus, David’s son must also be born in Bethlehem. Which brings us to the third and most important connection, God’s promise to David and the prophecy of Micah. In 2 Samuel 7:8-17, God sends the prophet Nathan to speak to David. In this passage, God promises to raise up a descendent and to establish his kingdom. He will be a son to God and God will be a father to him. Through this promise the house and kingdom of David would endure forever.

In Micah 5:2-3 we read the prophecy of One coming forth from Bethlehem Ephrathah to be the ruler of Israel. He is from the days of eternity and will come “when she wo is in labor has borne a child.” This One will rise and shepherd the flock. In fact, we can go all the way back to Genesis 49:10 and the prophecy of Jacob that Shiloh, meaning Messiah, will come to gather His people.

God’s promise to David and the fulfillment of the prophesies in Genesis and Micah are realized in Christ Jesus, the Promised Messiah. Through His sinless life, the works He performed, His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus proves without doubt, He is the One promised and prophesied – He is the Messiah, born in the line of David as his son, in Bethlehem, the city of David.

Jesus must be Born in Bethlehem as the Savior of the world, because He is the perfect sacrifice to remove our sins.

2). Jesus must be Born in Bethlehem because He came as the sacrifice to remove our sins.

Bethlehem is the place where lambs for Temple sacrifice were raised.

We have learned much about Bethlehem in our first point this morning and there is more yet to learn. As the Promised Messiah, Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David. Because Jesus belongs to the house and line of David, he is David’s son and will sit on his throne forever.

Now we turn our attention to Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. In verses 8-12, Luke records the events surrounding the shepherds in nearby fields. Angels appear and announce the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. We know why the angels appear to announce the birth of Jesus – He is the Son of God, the Son of David and the Promised Messiah. But what about these shepherds? Why in the world would shepherds be in the fields at night during the winter months? Some will argue that sheep are kept in the fields year-round, but this simply isn’t true.

During the long cold winter months, sheep are kept in a corral where they are protected from the weather and predators and fed with grain and straw kept by their owner. The fields would likely be snow covered and the grass doormat with no nutritional value for the sheep. So why are the shepherds in the fields? We’ll return to the shepherds in a moment but first we need to understand about the sacrifice Jesus provided.

In John 1:29 and again in verses 34-35, we find John the Baptist standing with his disciples as Jesus passes by. John immediately exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John relates to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb who will remove the sins of the people. In his prophecy of The Suffering Servant, Isaiah, in chapter 53 also identifies this servant as One who will be led as a lamb to the slaughter. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul identifies Jesus as our Passover who has already been sacrificed and in 1 Peter 1:19, Peter explains that redemption comes from the precious blood of an unblemished lamb – the blood of Christ!

But what you might ask, does this have to do with Bethlehem? Bethlehem is located 9 miles from Jerusalem. More importantly, Bethlehem is also the place where lambs for Temple sacrifice are raised, and not just for the daily sacrifice but also for the annual Passover Feast held in Jerusalem. And what about those shepherds in the fields? Passover lambs were required to be one year old on the Passover. In order to qualify as the Passover sacrifice they had to be without flaw – unblemished – and one year old.

So, the Passover lamb had to be born in the spring because Passover happens in the spring of the year – our months of March or April. So the shepherds are in the fields because it is lambing season! The shepherds must protect the ewe as she is giving birth and the newborn lamb as it is entering into life. For Jesus to be our Passover lamb, He would have to be born in the springtime – prior to Passover, thus making Him the perfect sacrifice – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

It is through His sinless life, His prefect, obedient, unstained, sacrificial life and His shed blood on the cross that we find forgiveness of sin. As the Lamb of God, His sacrifice was acceptable to God the Father and those who receive Him and believe in His name, who apply the shed blood of the Lamb to their lives, these find forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.

Jesus must be Born in Bethlehem as the Savior of the world, because He is the perfect sacrifice to remove our sins.

We looked back at the visit of the King Tut exhibit to the United States in 1976 through early 1979 and the chaos that surrounded the Boy-King who took the throne at the age of nine only to die at the age of 18 or 19. We even looked back to the hit by Steve Martin as he poked fun at this young king and his rather odd but short life.

In our passage this morning there is another city in the spotlight. This time it is a small city outside of Jerusalem and there is, in fact, a king involved with this city as well. The difference is not the chaos that followed after the death of the king in our passage, for His death was a sacrificial death meant for the salvation of many. Our king was Born in Bethlehem as the Promised Messiah and a perfect Passover sacrifice.

We have learned much about Bethlehem and the importance of this little town 9 miles outside of Jerusalem. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus play a crucial part in understanding Jesus as the Promised Messiah and our Passover sacrifice. The combination of these two roles, found only in Christ Jesus, bring salvation to those who believe in His name.

So, what do we do moving forward? Frist, examine what you are doing against what you are learning. Does what you are doing line up with what the Bible teaches? What adjustments or corrections do you need to make to be in step with the Bible? Read and study your Bible so you know what is truly being taught in its pages. God has laid out a plan of salvation and established holy days to remind us of this plan!

Secondly, do you truly know Jesus as the Promised Messiah? Is He truly Lord and Savior in your life? We cannot separate our lives into secular and sacred compartments, they must be one and the same. Jesus must be Lord in both secular and sacred settings. Examine your life and your actions to see if you are compartmentalizing life into secular and sacred. Finally, are you applying the Blood of the Lamb to your life? Has Jesus cleansed you entirely or are there area’s you have kept from Jesus? There can be nothing hidden or kept from Jesus. What has been kept in darkness will be exposed by His light! Life is much easier when we open our lives entirely to His light. There will be light and momentary pain as He exposes areas of sin, but His cleansing always brings healing.

If you are somehow separated from Jesus by hidden sin or an area of darkness, it is not too late. Jesus is always ready to shine into the darkest areas of your life to expose and cleanse you, making you pure and clean before God the Father. If you need help, please do not hesitate to reach out to this ministry or a ministry in your area. Help is available!! I pray that, as we approach Passover next week, you will begin to remove the compartments of secular and sacred that Jesus may be Lord and Savior in all areas of life. To the glory of God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord and Savior,

Amen and Amen.

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