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A Visit to Bethlehem, by C. H. Spurgeon

December 24, 2006

Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. — Luke 2:15.

NOT to Bethlehem as it now is, but to Bethlehem as it once was, I would lead your meditation this evening.

Were you to visit the site of that ancient city of Judah as it is at present, you would find little enough to edify your hearts. About six miles south of Jerusalem, on the declivity of a hill, lies a small, irregular village, never at any time considerable either in its extent or because of the wealth of its inhabitants. The only building worthy of notice is a convent. Should your fancy paint, as you approach it, a courtyard, a stable, or a manger, you would be sorely disappointed on your arrival. Tawdry decorations are all that would greet your eyes, — rather adapted to obliterate than to preserve the sacred interest with which a Christian would regard the place. You might walk upon the marble floor of a chapel, and gaze on walls bedecked with pictures, and studded with the fantastic dolls and other nicknacks which are usually found in Popish places of worship. Within a small grotto, you might observe the exact spate that superstition has assigned to the nativity of our Lord; there, a star, composed of silver and precious stones, surrounded by golden lamps, might remind you, but merely as a parody, of the simple by of the Evangelists. Truly, Bethlehem was ever little, if not the least, among the thousands of Judah, and famous only for its historic associations.

So, beloved, “let us now go even unto Bethlehem “as it was; —  let us, if possible, bring the wondrous story of that “Child born,” that “Son given,” down to our own times. Imagine the event to be occurring just now. I will try to paint the picture for you with vivid colors, that you may apprehend afresh the great truth, and be impressed, as you ought to be, with the facts cancerning the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I propose now to make A VISIT TO BETHLEHEM, and I want five campanions to render the visit instructive; so I would have, first, an aged Jew; next, an ancient Gentile; then, a convinced sinner; then, a young believer; and, last of all, an advanced Christian. Their remarks can scarcely fail to please and profit us. Afterwards, I should like to take a whole family to the manger, let them all look at the Divine Infant, and hear what each one has to say about him.

I. To begin, then, I WOULD GO TO BETHLEHEM WITH AN AGED JEW.

Come on, my venerable, long-bearded brother; thou art an Isaelite, indeed, for thy name is Simeon. Dost thou see the Babe “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”? Yes, he does; and, overpowered by the sight, he clasps the Child in his arms, and exclaims, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” “Here,” says this faithful son of Abraham, “is the fulfillment of a thousand prophecies and promises, the hope, the expectation, and the joy of my noble ancestry; here is the Antitype of all those mystic symbols and typical offerings enjoined in the laws of Moses. Thou, O Son of the Highest, art Abraham’s promised Seed, the Shiloh whose coming Jacob foretold, great David’s greater Son, and Israel’s rightful King. Our prophets did herald thy coming in each prophetic page; our bards vied with one another which should chant thy praise in sweetest stanzas; and now, O happy hour, these poor dim eyes do greet thy beauteous form! It is enough, — and more than enough; — O God, I ask not that I may live any longer on earth! “So speaks the aged Jew; and, as he speaks, I mark the rapturous smile that lights up every feature of his face, and listen to the deep, mellow tones of his tremulous voice. As he gazes on the fonder Babe, I hear him quote Isaiah’s words, “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant;” and then, as he glances aside at the virgin-mother, descendant of the royal house of David, he quickly looks back to the sinless Babe, and says, “A root out of a dry ground.” Farewell, venerable Jew, thy talk sounds sweetly in mine ears; may the day soon dawn when all thy breathren shall return to their fatherland, and there confess our Jesus as their Messiah and their King!

II. My next companion shall be AN ANCIENT GENTILE.

He is an intelligent man. Do not ask me any questions concerning his creed. Deeply versed in the works of God in nature, he has glimmering, flickering light enough to detect the moral darkness by which he is surrounded, albeit the truth of the gospel has not yet found an entrance into his heart. Call him a sceptic, from the heathen point of view, if you please; but his is not a wilful perversion of the heart, it is rather that tration state of the mind wherein false hopes are rejected, but the true hope has not yet been espoused. This Gentile brother is staying at Jerusalem, and we walk and talk together as we bend our steps toward Bethlehem. He has told me what pleasure he feels in reading the Jewish Scriptures, and how he has often longed for the dawn of that day which their seers predict. Now we enter the house, — a star shines brightly in the sky, and hovers over the stable; — we look at the Child, and my comrade exclaims in ecstasy, “a light to lighten the Gentilesi!” “Fair Child of promise,” says he, “thy birth shall be a joy to all people! Prince of peace, thine shall be a peaceful reign! Kings shall bring presents unto thee; all nations shall serve thee. The poor shall rejoice in thine advent, for justice shall be done to them by thee; and oppressors shall tremble at thy coming, for judgment upon them shall be pronounced by thy lips.” Then sweetly did he speak of the hopes which had bloomed in that birth-chamber. He looked as if, in that self-same hour, he saw the application of many an ancient promise, with the letter of which he was already acquainted, to the wonderful Child he there saw. It was refreshing to hear that entire quote, from the evangelical prophet, words like these, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

As I bid adieu to this friend, you must allow me to offer you one or two of my own reflections. When God, in his anger, hid his face from the house of Jacob, he lifted up the light of his countenance on the Gentiles. When the fruitful land became a desert, the wilderness, at the same time, began to blossom as the garden of the Lord. Moses had anticipated both of these events, and the inspired prophets had foreseen one as much as the other. The heart of the Jewish people made gross, the heaviness of their eyes, and the dulness of their ears, are not more striking, as an exact fulfillment of divine judgment, than the extreme susceptibility of the Gentile mind to receive the evidence of our Lord’s Messiahship, and to embrace his gospel. Thus had Jehovah said, fifteen hundred years before, “I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” Marvel not, then, but admire the crisis in history when Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to say to the Jews who rejected the gospel, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles,” I have consulted the map, and looked, with intense emotion, at the route which Paul and Barnabas took on their first missionary journey. Antioch, the city from which they went forth, is situated directly North of Jerusalem, and there, in no very unequal proportions, they could find both Jews and Gentiles. “To the Jew first,” was according to the divine injunction; and, on their own nation rejecting the grace of God, lo, they turned to the Gentiles, with a result immediately following that greatly cheered them, for the Gentiles heard with gladness, and glorified the Word of the Lord. As you follow the various journeys of the apostle Paul, you will see that his course was ever Northward, or, rather, in a North-Westerly direction, and so the tidings of the gospel traveled on until the Church of the redeemed found a central paint in our highly-favored isle.

I think I hear some of you say, “We are not antiquarian enough to appreciate the society of your two venerable companions.” Well then, beloved, the three that follow shall be drawn from among yourselves, and it may be that you will discover your own thoughts expressed in the sketches I am about to add.

III. Next in order is THE AWAKENED SINNER.

Come here, my sister, I am glad to see you, and I shall have much pleasure in your company to Bethlehem. Why do you start back? Do not be afraid; there is nothing to terrify you here. Come in; come in. With trembling apprehension, my sister advances to the rough crib, where the young Child lies. She looks as if she feared to rejoice, and is beyond measure astonished at herself that she does not faint. She says to me, “And is this, sir, really and truly the great mystery of godliness? Do I, in that manger, behold ‘God manifest in the flesh’? I expected to see something very different.” Looking into her face, I clearly perceived that she could scarcely believe for joy. A humble, but not uninteresting visitor to the birthplace of my Lord is this trembling penitent. I wish I could have many like her out of this congregation tonight. You would see how mystery is dissolved in mercy. No flaming sword, turning every way, obstructs your entrance; no ticket of admission is demanded by a surly menial at the door; no favor is shown to rank or title; you may go freely in to see the noblest child of woman born in the humblest cot wherein infant ever nestled. Nor does a visible tiara of light encircle his brow. Too humble, I assure you, for the fancy of the poet to describe, or the pencil of the artist to sketch, — like a poor man’s child, he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, and cradled in a manger. It needs faith to believe what the eye of sense never could discern as you look upon “the Prince of life” in such humble guise.

IV. My fourth companion is A YOUNG BELIEVER.

Well, my brother, you and I have often had sweet communion together concerning the things of the kingdom; “let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” I mark the sacred cheerfulness of my young friend’s countenance as he approaches the incarnate mystery. Often have I heard him discussing curious doctrinal subtleties; but now, with calmness of spirit, he looks on the face of the Divine Child, and says, “Truth is sprung out of the earth, for a woman hath brought forth her Son; and righteousness hath looked down from heaven, for God hath, of a truth, revealed himself in that Babe.” He looks so wistfully at the young Child, as if a fresh spring of holy gratitude had been opened in his heart. “No vision, no imagination, no myth here,” he says, “but a real partaker of our flesh and blood; he has not taken on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. Heaven and earth have united to make us blessed. Might and weakness have joined hands here!” He pauses to worship, then speaks again, “In what a small, weak, slender tabernacle dost thou, O glorious God, now deign to dwell! Surely, mercy and truth have here met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. O Jesus, Savior, thou art mercy itself,  — the tender mercy of our God is embodied in thee. Thou art the Truth, — the very Truth which the prophets longed to see, and into which the angels desire to look, — the Truth my soul so long sought for, but never found till I beheld thy face. Once I thought that the Truth was hidden in some profound treatise, or in some learned book; but now I know that it is revealed in thee, O Jesus, my Kinsman, yet thy Father’s equal! And, sweet Babe, thou art also righteousness, — the only righteousness that God can accept. What condescension, yet what patience! Ah, dear Child, how still thou dost lie! I wonder that, conscious of thy divine power, thou canst thus endure the weary, lingering hours of infancy with humility so strange, so rare! Methinks, if thou hadst stood by me, and watched over me, in my infant weakness, that would have been a service that I could well admire; but ’tis past imagination’s utmost stretch to realize what it must be for thee to be thus feeble, thus helpless, thus needing to be fed and waited upon by an earthly mother. For the Wonderful, the mighty God, to stoop thus, is humility profound!”

So spake the young believer, and I liked his speech much, for I saw in him how faith could work by love, and how the end of controversy and argument is reached at Bethlehem, for “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”

V. Now I will go to Bethlehem with AN ADVANCED CHRISTIAN, such an one as Paul the aged, or John the diving; nay, rather with, such an one as I might find among the circle of my own churchmembers.

Calm, peaceful, and benignant, he seems as if his training in the school of Christ, and the sacred anointing of the Holy Spirit, have made him like a child himself, as his character is ripening, and his fitness for the kingdom of heaven is becoming more apparent. Tears glistened in the old man’s eyes as he looked with expressive fondness on that “Infant of eternal days.” He spake not much, and what he said was not exactly like what any of my other companions had spoken. It was his manner to quote short sentences, with great exactness, from the Word of God. He uttered them slowly, pondered them deeply, and there was much spiritual unction in the accent with which he spake. I will just mention a few of the profitable sentences that he uttered. First he said, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven“ and he really appeared to see more in that passage than I had ever seen there; Jesus, the Son of man, in heaven even while he was on earth! Then he looked at the Child, and said, “The same was in the beginning with God.” After that, he uttered these three short sentences in succession, “In the beginning was the Word,” — ”all things were made by him,” “and the Word was made flesh.” He looked as if he realized what a great mystery it was that our Lord Jesus first made all things, and afterwards was himself “made flesh.” Then he reverently bent his knee, clasped his hands, and exclaimed, “My Father’s gift-’Behold, what manner of love!’”

As we retire from that manger and stable, that aged Christian puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “Young man, I have often been to Bethlehem; it was a much-loved haunt of mine before thou wast born, and one sweet lesson I have learnt there which I should like to pass on to thee. The Infinite became finite; the Almighty consented to become weak; he, that upheld all things by the word of his power, willingly became helpless; he, that spake all worlds into existence, resigned for a while even the power of speech. In all these things, he fulfilled the will of his Father; so be not thou afraid, nor surprised with any amazement, if thou shouldst be dealt with in like manner, for his Father is also thy Father. Thou, who hast revelled in the ancient settlements of the everlasting covenant, mayest yet have to hang feebly on the mercies of the hour. Thou hast leaned on thy Savior’s breast at his table; but thou mayest presently be so weak that thou must, rely on the nursing of a woman. Thy tongue has been touched as with a coal from the heavenly altar, but thy lips may yet be sealed as are those of an infant. If thou shouldst sink still deeper in humiliation, thou wilt never reach the depth to which Jesus descended in this one act of his condescension.” “True, true,” I replied, “my young brother hinted at the wondrous condescension of the Son of God; you have explained it to me more fully.”

Thus, then, beloved, I have endeavored to carry out my purpose of going to Bethlehem with five separate companions, — all representative persons. Alas, that some of you are not represented by any one of these characters! Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Care ye not for this blessed nativity which marked of old the fullness of time? If ye die without a knowledge of this mystery, your lives will indeed be a fearful blank, and your eternal portion will be truly terrible.

VI. Give me your earnest attention, a little longer, while I try to change the line of meditation. It may please God that, while I attempt to CONDUCT A WHOLE FAMILY TO BETHLEHEM, some hearts, which have thus far resisted all my appeals, may yet yield to the Lord Jesus Christ.

A familiar picture will serve my purpose. Imagine this to be the evening of Christmas-day, and that a Christian father has all his household gathered with him around the fire. Desirous of blending instruction with pleasure, he proposes that “the birth of Christ” shall be the subject of their conversation, that every one of the children shall say something about it, and he will preach them a short sermon on each of their remarks. He calls Mary, their servant, into the room, and when all are comfortably seated they commence.

1.  After a simple sketch of the facts, the father turns to his youngest boy, and asks, “What have you to say, Willy?” The little fellow, who is just old enough to go to the Sunday-school, repeats two lines that he has learnt to sing there, — many of you, no doubt, know them, —

Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,
Once became a child like me.

“Good, my dear,” says the father, — ”once became a child like me.” Yes; Jesus was born into the world as other little babies are born. He was as little, as delicate, as weak, as other infants, and needed to be nursed as they do.

Almighty God became a man, A babe like others been:
As small in size, and weak of frame, As babes have always been.
From thence he grew an infant mild, By fair and due degrees;
And then became a bigger child, And eat on Mary’s knee.
At first held up for want of strength, In time alone he ran
Then grew a boy; a lad; at length, youth; at last, a man.

“It is wrong to draw pictures of the little Jesus, and then say that they are like him. Wicked idolaters do that. But we ought to think of Jesus Christ as made in all things like unto his brethren. There was never a thing in which he was not like us, except that he had no sin. He used to eat, and drink, and sleep, and wake, and laugh, and cry, and fondle his mother, just as other children do. So it is quite right for you, Willy, to say, ’once became a child like me.’”

2.  “Now, John,” said the father, addressing a lad rather older, “what have you to say?” “Well, father,” said John, “if Jesus Christ was like us in some things, I do not think he could have had so many comforts as we have; — not such a nice nursery, nor such a snug bed. Was he not disturbed by the horses, and cows, and camels? It seems to me shocking that he had to live in a stable.”

“That is a very proper remark, John,” said his father. “We ought all of us to think how our blessed Lord cast in his lot with the poor. When those wise men came from the East, I daresay they were surprised, at first, to find that Jesus was a poor man’s child; yet they fell down and worshipped him, and they opened their treasury, and presented to him very costly gifts, — gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Ah! when the Son of God made that great stoop from heaven to earth, he passed the glittering palaces of kings, and the marble halls of the rich and the noble, and took up his abode in the lodgings of poverty. Still, he was ‘born King of the Jews.’ Now, John, did you ever read of a child being born a king before! Of course, you never did; children have been born princes, and heirs to a throne, but no other than Jesus was ever born a king. The poverty of our Savior’s circumstances is like a foil which sets off the glorious dignity of his person. You have read of good kings, such as David, and Hezekiah, and Josiah; yet, if they had not been kings, we should never have heard of them; but it was quite otherwise with Jesus Christ. He was possessed of more true greatness in a stable than any other king ever possessed in a palace; but do not imagine it was only in his childhood that Jesus was the Kinsman of the poor. When he grew up to be a man, he said, ’The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ Do you know, my children, that our comforts were purchased at the expense of his sufferings? ’He became poor that we, through his poverty, might be rich.’ We ought, therefore, to thank and praise the blessed Jesus every time we remember how much worse off he was in this world than we are.”

3.  “It is your turn now,” said the father, as he looked at his little daughter, — an intelligent girl, who was just beginning to be of some assistance to her mother in the discharge of her daily domestic duties. Poor girl, she modestly hung down her head, for she remembered, just then, how frequently little acts of carelessness had exposed her to tender but faithful rebukes from her parents. At last, she said, “Oh, father, how good Jesus Christ was! He never did anything wrong.” “Very true, my love,” the father replied. “It is a sweet subject for meditation that you suggest. His nature was sinless, his thoughts were pure, his heart was transparent, and all his actions just and right. You have read of the lambs, which Moses in the law commanded the Jews to offer in sacrifice to God. They were all to be without spot or blemish; and if there had been one taint of impurity in the Child that was born of Mary, he could never have been our Savior. Sometimes, we think naughty thoughts, and nobody knows it but God; and, sometimes, we do what is evil, but we are not found out. It was not so with the meek and lowly Savior; he never had even one fault. His delight was in the law of the Lord, and in that law did he meditate day and night. Even when we do not commit any positive sin, we often forget to do our duty; but Jesus never did. He was like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. He never disappointed any hopes that were set upon him.”

“There now,” said the father, “we have had three beautiful thoughts already, Jesus Christ took our nature, he condescended to be very poor, and he was without sin.”

4. There was, in the room, a big boy, who had just come home from boarding school, to spend his Christmas holidays, so his father turned to this son, and said, “Fred, we must hear your remark next.” Very short, very significant was Master Fred’s response: “that child had a wonderful mind.’,

“Indeed he had,” said the father, “and it would be well for all of us if that mind were in us which was also in Christ Jesus. His mind was infinite, for he took part in the eternal counsels of God; but I would rather suggest to you another line of thought: ’In him was light.’ The mind of Jesus was like light for its clearness and purity. We often see things through a misleading medium; we form wrong impressions, which we find it trouble enough afterwards to correct; but Jesus was of quick understanding to discern between good and evil. His mind was never warped by prejudice; he saw things just as they are. Never had he to borrow other people’s eyes, and the ideas hatched in other people’s brains never guided his judgment. He had light in himself, and that light was the life of men, so capable was he ever of instructing the ignorant, and guiding their feet in the paths of peace. His heart was likewise pure, and that has more to do with the development of the mind, and the improvement of the understanding, than we are apt to suppose. No corrupt imagination ever tarnished the brightness of his vision. He was always in harmony with God, and always felt good-will toward man. You might well say, Fred, that he had a wonderful mind.”

5.  The children having each made some observation, the father next addressed Mary, the servant. “Do not be timid,” said he, “but speak out, and let us know your thought.” “I was just a-thinking, sir,” said Mary, “how humble it was of him to take upon himself the form of a servant.” “Right, Mary, quite right; and it is always profitable to consider how Jesus came down to our low estate. We may well be reconciled to any ’lot’ which Jesus voluntarily chose for himself. But there is more in your remark, as applicable to Bethlehem, and the nativity, than you perhaps imagined; for, according to Dr. Kitto’s account of the inn, or Caravanserai, it was the servant’s place that the holy family occupied. Imagine now a square pile of strong and lofty walls, built of brick upon a basement of stone, with one great archway entrance. These walls enclose a large open area with a well in the middle. In the center is an inner quadrangle, consisting of a raised platform on all four sides covered with a kind of piazza, and then, in the wall behind, there are small doors leading to the little cells which form the lodgings. Such we may suppose to have been the ’inn’ in which there was ’no room’ for Mary and Joseph. Now for a description of the stable. It is formed of a covered avenue between the back wall of the lodging apartments and the outer wall of the whole building; thus it is on a level with the court, and three or four feet below the raised platform. The side walls of those cells, in the inner quadrangle, projecting behind into the courtyard, form recesses, or stalls, which servants and muleteers used for shelter in bad weather. Joseph and Mary seem to have found a retreat in one of these. There, it is supposed, the infant Jesus was born; and if it be so, how literally true is it that he took on him the form of a servant, and occupied the servant’s apartment!”

6. Once more the father seeks a fresh text, and, looking at his wife, he says, “My dear, you have taken a quiet interest in our conversations this evening; let us now hear your reflection. I am sure you can say something we shall all be pleased to hear.” The mother looked absorbed in thought, she appeared to have a vivid picture of the whole scene before her, and her eye kindled as if she could actually see the little darling lying in the manger. She spoke most naturally and most maternally, too. “What a lovely Child! And yet,” she added, with a deep sigh, “he, who is thus fairer than the children of men in his cradle, after a few short years, was so overwhelmed with anxiety, suffering, and anguish, that his visage was more marred than that of any other man, and his form more than that of the sons of men.”

A pensive sadness stole over every countenance as that godly mother offered her reflections. Woman’s tenderness seemed to be sanctified by grace divine in her heart, and to give forth its richest fragrance. The father presently broke the stillness as he said, “Ah, my love, you have spoken best of all! His heart was broken with reproach; that humble birth was but the prelude to a life still more humble, and a death even more abased. Your feeling, my love, is a most precious evidence of your close relationship to him.

A faithful friend of grief partakes;
But union can be none
Betwixt a heart that melts like wax
And hearts as hard as stone;
Betwixt a head diffusing blood
And members sound and whole,
Betwixt an agonizing God.
And an unfeeling soul.

7. “To close up now,” said the father, glancing round with animated expression upon his household, “I suppose you will expect a few words from me. Much as I like your mother’s observations, I think it would be hardly right, on such an auspicious day, to finish with anything melancholy and sad. You know that fathers are generally most thoughtful about the prospects of their children. I can look at you boys, and think, ’Never mind if you have a few hardships so long as you can struggle successfully against them.’ Well now, I have been picturing to myself the manger, the baby that lay in it, and Mary his mother watching lovingly over him; and I’ll tell you what I thought. Those little hands will one day grasp the scepter of universal empire; those little arms will one day grapple with the monster ’Death,’ and destroy it; those little feet shall tread on the serpent’s neck, and crush that old deceiver’s head; yea, and that little tongue, which hath not yet learned to articulate a word, shall, ere long, pour from his sweet lips such streams of eloquence as shall fertilize the minds of the whole human race, and infuse his teaching into the literature of the world; and again a little while, and that tongue shall pronounce the judgments of heaven on the destinies of all mankind. We have all thought it wonderful that the God of glory should stoop so low; but we shall one day think it more wonderful that the Man of sorrows should be exalted so high. Earth could find no place too base for him; heaven will scarcely find a place lofty enough for him. If there is just this one thing to be said about Jesus Christ he is ’the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.’ We may change with circumstances, Jesus never did, and never will. When we look at him in the manger, we may say, ’He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God.’ And when we see him exalted to his Father’s right hand, we may exclaim, ’Behold the Man!’

His human heart he still retains
Though ’throned in highest bliss,
And feels each tempted member’s pains,
For our affliction’s his.

So closed the series of observations by the various members of a Christian family around the Christmas fire. The father said it was time to retire, and bade them all Good night;” and as the father said, so say I, “Good-night, and God bless you all!” Amen.

EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON. LUKE 2:1-19.

We WILL now read the story of our Savior’s birth as it is recorded in the Gospel according to Luke.

Verses 1-6. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Little did any idea enter into Caesar’s head that he was accomplishing the purpose of God by bringing Mary to Bethlehem, at that particular time, so that her child might be born there. But God can accomplish the purpose of his providence, and of his grace, in any way that he pleases and although Caesar is not aware of all that is involved in his action, his decree, which he intends simply to be a means of registering his subjects, and of filling his exchequer, is to be overruled by God for the fufilment of the prophecy, uttered centuries before the event happened, that Christ must be born at Bethlehem.

It may seem, to some of you, a strange thing that there should be an imperial edict, issued from Rome, which should have an important influence upon the place of birth of the Child; yet I do not doubt that, in God’s esteem, the whole of the great Roman Empire was of very small account in comparison with his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and today, the thrones and dominions of the mightiest monarchs are only like the small cogs of the wheels of divine providence where the welfare of even the least of the Lord’s people is concerned. He reckons not events according to their apparent importance; the standard of the sanctuary is a very different measure from that which worldlings use. When any purpose of God is to be accomplished, all other things will be subordinated to it.

6, 7. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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.

Now hath heavenly glory wedded earthly poverty; and, henceforth, let no man dare to despise the poor and needy, since the son of the Highest is born in a stable, and cradled in a manger. How low the King of glory stoops, and how gloriously he uplifts the lowly to share his glory!

8, 9. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

For such is the condition, even of gracious souls, that the near approach of the divine glory begets in them trembling and alarm. Oh, how wondrously changed shall we be when we are able to bear even the glories of heaven! Have you ever thought of this, dear friends? The beloved apostle, John, saw Christ in his glory, and he wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet, as dead; “and these shepherds, even at the sight of “the angel of the Lord,” “were sore afraid.” You and I, beloved, must undergo a marvellous change before we shall be able to be at home with God in his glory; but that change shall, through his abundant grace, take place ere long.

10-12. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“This shall be a sign unto you,” said the angel to the shepherds; and this is the ensign of the Christ of God even unto this day. There are some, who are constantly bringing discredit upon religion by their pompous ritual and gorgeous ceremonies, and it is buried beneath the weight of their sensuous worship, but the living Christ is still found in simple, lowly guise, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host —

They had heard the heavenly herald’s proclamation, and hurried down to join him in publishing the glad tidings. They could not bear that only one angel should announce the birth of the Christ; so, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host” —

13-19. Praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherd. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Mary laid these things up in store, and pondered them, giving them their due weight and value. Oh, that we did the same with every truth that we learn! (1)

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(1) Spurgeon, C. H. 1998. Vol. 50: Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 50 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons. Ages Software: Albany, OR

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Categories: Christmas, Jack Hammer, Sermons
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  1. December 24, 2006 at 3:13 pm
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