Luke 2:4-20 True glory is often cloaked in humility and austerity

Luke 2:4-20 True glory is often cloaked in humility and austerity.

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, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 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. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 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; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Background

The shepherds were greeted by a host of angels announcing the birth of the Saviour in the city of David. The shepherds received the sign from the angels through which they identified the Child as the Messiah. Who can guess the Child in a manger was in fact, the Lord of creation! For anyone would have considered Him as a descendant of the cursed. Likewise, many true followers of Christ are often disregarded. But our glory will one day startle the rich and powerful. Indeed, true glory is often cloaked in humility and austerity.

Observation

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem.

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home for the region-wide census. It was during their time in Bethlehem that the Child was due. As there were no facilities available at that time, the Holy Family was forced to deliver their Son in a barn. His mother then laid Him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, unfit for humans.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

The appearance of the angels impressed upon the shepherds the divine significance and identity of the Child they were about to meet. The sign of the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger was significant, without which the shepherds would never recognise the Child lying in the manger was indeed the Saviour of the world. The shepherds proceeded to seek out the Child who was to bring peace among men“Peace” connotes salvation and blessedness which God would bring upon men. The angels, in declaring “Glory to God in the highest” announced the successful implementation of God’s salvation plan for humanity and evil destroyed. Being a descendant of David and birthed in the city of David, Christ is a type of king David who brought salvation to Israel.

“Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

The news of the Saviour’s birth brought indescribable joy to the people who were oppressed by the rulers of darkness. The Child is to grow in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52). And having obtained all authority from God (Matthew 28:18), He will disarm the powers of darkness that oppress the righteous (Colossians 2:15). Having done so, He will entrust His supreme authority to faithful believers (see John 20:21) who will reign over creation by destroying the powers of darkness. 

Truth

True glory is often cloaked in humility and austerity

Through the instructions of the angels, the shepherds came to recognise the Child in a manger as the Messiah. Who can guess the Child was, in fact, the Lord of creation! For even the shepherds themselves do not give birth in such dilapidated conditions. Indeed, true glory is often cloaked in humility and austerity. Likewise, the true children of God may seem insignificant at the onset, but their future will be very great (see Job 8:7). Isaiah said of the Messiah and of God’s people,

Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
Thus He will sprinkle (startle) many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men. – Isaiah 52:13-53:3a.

Isaiah describes the Messiah and God’s people as marred in appearance and having no stately form or majesty. Yet they will be exalted to rule over the nations.

Therefore, we must learn to recognise what is true and what is counterfeit and fading away. Many churchgoers do not like to take on the appearance of Christ and the way of the cross. Thus, they look to an alternate gospel that preaches an earthly kind of glory and prosperity.

What does it mean to be humble?

It is to give up one’s rights for the good of another. In humility, Jesus gave up His privileges as Son of God to become a man. As a human being, He puts on human weakness, being subject to the violence of the fallen world. Most significantly, in becoming human, He became vulnerable to the temptations of sin (see Romans 8:2b).

It is to identify with the down and out by living among them. In humility, Jesus was birthed into a commoner’s family identified with the lower strata of society.

It is to serve others out of goodwill while asking nothing in return. In humility, Jesus served and gave His life for the salvation of all (see Mark 10:44-45).

It is to recognise who we are and to embrace our place and calling. In humility, Jesus recognises His identity as God’s Son, and subjects Himself under the Father’s authority. At the same time, He takes His place as the Lamb of God and Judge of humanity. And all who honour Him will be honoured by the Father (see John 5:19-23).

It is to obey the Father’s will even if we are unjustly treated. In humility, Jesus died in place of Barabbas, a condemned criminal.

It is to love and forgive those who harmed us. In humility, He beseeched the Father to forgive His tormentors (see Luke 23:34).

Humility overcomes the devil

A humble person sees himself and all that he has as belonging to God and God alone. And a humble person is always open to higher grace and even things that seem radical or disagreeable. But a prideful person hesitates to integrate God’s grace or truth into his life. Thus, a prideful person holds on to his right and his pet convictions. But a humble person declares that God is always right and has every right over him.

Because pride seeks meaning and significance apart from God, it becomes the foundation for destruction. Proverbs 16:18-20 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall… He who gives heed to the word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts in the LORD.”

While pride leads to self-destruction, humility overcomes the devil. Humility cuts through all the gloss, deception, and illusion of the false gospel to destroy the devil. Jesus emptied Himself of all pretence by being born in a manger, so that He could promote the truth and embrace righteousness. Because Jesus humbled Himself by giving His life, God exalted Him to the highest station of the universe. Paul said concerning Jesus,

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.– Philippians 2:8-9.

Jesus, having been exalted disarmed the devil and triumphed over them,

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. – Colossians 2:15

Abilities do not bring us victory over the devil. Achievements do not bring us glory before God, but humility does. What caused the Father to exalt Jesus is not the number of people He ministered to, or the quality of His sermons, or the number of miracles He performed. But rather, His humility; the willingness to give up His right to live. Likewise, Apostle John said concerning believers who overcame the devil,

And they overcame him (the devil) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. – Revelations 12:11

Application

As believers, we must know the truth and not be deceived by popular opinion in the guise of worldly success and approval. A large following does not infer that the truth is preached. For Jesus, on several occasions had large crowds following Him because of the signs. But they quickly deserted Him when He preached the truth. We must read the gospel and understand how Jesus lived. In so doing, we acquire wisdom to perceive people and circumstances through the eyes of God. Most will follow a populist, but few will follow Christ. Jesus said,

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

Do not judge another too quickly. Some may not seem to be of value at the onset but blooms with excellence when given time. May God give us the wisdom to see the hidden gem within people and bring them forth. The people of the world enter the wide gate. And those who come through the narrow gate will naturally be despised. However, they will be vindicated by the applause of the heavenly saints and angels on the day of resurrection.

Dear Lord, help me understand who I am and the calling that you have placed in my life. I will not try to gain approval by putting on an appearance. I acknowledge my weaknesses and in humility, recognise my status before God as His son. Give me the grace to give up my rights for the benefit of others. As I walk in humility, use me to bring peace in places of conflict, and to heal the broken. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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