Luke 2: 8-20
There have been momentous events in the last 100 years, events that have influenced the way people think and behave:
- The Great Depression (1929-1933): My parents and my wife’s parents lived through this time. Many people were poor, and they were hungry. In their later years, my in-laws had three full large freezers in the basement – and the food was rarely used. They didn’t want to be hungry and be poor ever again.
- World War 2 (1939-1945): When the United States went to war against the aggression of Germany, Italy and Japan, we didn’t know we would win! All we could do is give it everything that we had to make sure that, if we lost, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying! Gas rationing, food rationing, tire rationing. Donate your aluminum cooking pots and pans, metal of any sort, jewelry. Anything metal. We have to win! People who lived through those times of self-sacrifice (and The Great Depression) wanted to make sure their children and grandchildren never had to go through that deprivation.
- Late 1960’s: Vietnam War. Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated. I graduated from high school. 1969 was the first manned landing on the moon – and Woodstock. The culture turned upside down: men’s dress clothing went from white shirts and narrow black ties to brightly colored shirts and colorful ties: the wider and brighter, the better. No institutions of society could be trusted: government, law enforcement, college administration, even churches. They were the establishment. And frankly, I didn’t think our society was going to make it. And sadly, I still don’t have any heroes.
- More recently, on 9/11/2001 we had the attack on the Twin Towers in New York after terrorists took over airliners and rammed the jet airplanes into the buildings. Another passenger jet was crashed into the Pentagon. And the brave passengers of yet another airliner made sure that the terrorists in that plane were not going to get by with taking over the airplane, and that plane ended up crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. We still feel the aftermath of that every time we go through an airport screening.
- And now COVID-19. We have yet to see the long-term effects of this world-wide malady.
Those were momentous times that caused a lasting impression on the generation that lived through them. However, as people get older and new generations come along, those major events start fading into the history books and don’t mean as much to the succeeding generations.
However, there was one earth-changing event that has changed the entire world, even to the point that the western calendar hinges around that event and a holiday is celebrated in some fashion around his birth – the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. It didn’t just happen yesterday, or 19 years ago, or 55 years ago, or 80 years ago. It happened 2000 years ago – and that event continues to influence the generations. It was so important that God sent some special messengers at that time to announce the occasion.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” [Luke 2: 8. NIV]
Let’s look at this passage. The “And” that starts out verse 8 signifies an attachment with the preceding verses. What had been going on at the same time? A census initiated by Caesar Augustus was being taken throughout the Roman Empire. In those days, you couldn’t answer census questions by computer or telephone from the comfort of your home. And you didn’t have nice census takers come by your house to ask you the questions for the census. You had to go to the town where you were from. For me, that would mean I would have to travel 2100 miles by car from Fayetteville, North Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah to register for the census. For Joseph and pregnant Mary, that meant traveling 97 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem by foot (and possibly donkey, although the means of traveling are not mentioned in any of the narratives)! What is 100 miles from where you live? How would you like to walk to get there? No, I wouldn’t, either.
While they were there in Bethlehem registering for the census, it came time for Mary to give birth. They couldn’t find any room in the local inn or hotel, so they ended up in a stable. Mary gave birth to Jesus. No, it’s not as simple as a short sentence, is it, Ladies? Mary wrapped the baby in some fabric cloth and placed him in a stable animal’s feeding trough. It was soft with hay and was the closest thing to a bed they had for him.
That’s what was happening at the same time as the “And” of verse 8. At the time that Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in an animal’s feeding trough, there were shepherds tending to their sheep in nearby fields.
And that’s where I will end today. I am trying to limit myself to no more than 1000 – 1200 words for each blog – after my first blogs being 2000 words! I do know where I am heading with this, so I will continue this blog tomorrow.
Categories: How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?