The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Pip Coombs. Pip Coombs is a Midwife at Kingston Hospital. She is also married to Matt and is a recent convert to the morning service. 

Luke 2:1-21

The birth of Jesus

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14
'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.'

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Reflection

This is a well known passage - in fact you have only read it a month a go or so over Christmas.

Luke provides a number of particular details about the time, the Roman leaders, the angelic appearances and various reactions. But there are a number of details that aren't expanded upon but left to the reader to imagine. Rather than commenting on the words of the text, I want to share some thoughts that came to mind of the event behind the text.

(7) and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Now, I can tell you as a midwife (50+ catches to my name) no one simply gives birth to their firstborn. Birth is messy even in a sterile labour ward let alone in a stable. I can't begin to imagine how distressing it must have been to not have a room to give birth in. How painful and scary the process of giving birth without the support of those who had done it before. I'm willing to bet (and I know the text doesn't say it!) that Mary had a rollercoaster of an experience. Simultaneously fearful and alone, and holding onto the promise God had made to her.

It seems to me that that is a circumstance that we often find ourselves in in the Christian life. Disorientating, uncertain, doubtful, in pain, nothing is neat and tidy and yet in the same moment holding onto the conviction that our God is one who enters right into the mess. The incarnation reveals that our God is not squeemish, or shy, or shirks away from the more difficult aspects of life but instead is he is Emmanuel - God with us.

You may not be about to give birth, but you may be in a potentially fearful, messy, not-how-you-would-have-liked-things-to-go situation yourself. Claim the promise that God is with you today. Invite him to come and be with you and bring great joy.

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