December 24, 2008: Christmas Eve

Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we have come to pay homage to You! Tonight we have journeyed again to Your manger to see what lies inside—the eternal Son of God filled with wisdom, love, forgiveness, and humility. As we contemplate Your presence we are awestruck. You, that the heavens of the heavens cannot contain, gaze up at us from a simple manger! O the wonder of it all! And yet, what so fills us with joy is that by coming to earth, You have paid homage to us! You have loved us. You have brought forgiveness and eternal life to us! May our thanks never cease! Amen


TEXT: Luke 2: 1-7

Fellow Redeemed In The Christ Child:

In the year 4 BC he first took office. He would hold that position twice. He was a favorite of the world’s leading superpower. Everyone knew his name. It was: Publius Silpicius Quirinus. St. Luke mentions his elevated position in the empire: Roman governor of Syria. And his very first task in office was to do what all politicians do: seek to expand the tax base! So, under his guidance a census was undertaken of the area he controlled which included Judea, that backwater, hard-to-control ancestral home of the Jewish people. And exactly who dictated that revenues be raised and this census completed? Why none other than: Caesar Augustus!

Of course, that wasn’t his real name. His given name was: Octavius. He was born in 63 BC and he was a favorite of his great uncle: Julius Caesar. When Julius was murdered, Octavius joined with 2 other men in ruling the Roman empire. Later he ousted them, had them killed, and took complete control of the entire known world of the time. He took the name: Caesar because it meant: King! He took the name: Augustus because it meant: Most Honored. And so begins the greatest story ever told: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinus was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.”


Throughout the entire Mediterranean region and the whole of Europe, there literally wasn’t one person who didn’t know who Caesar Augustus was. His word was law. He had the power to kill anyone for any reason, no questions asked. Lord Acton once issued that well-known quote: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Well, it certainly applied to Caesar Augustus. When Jesus was born, Augustus was 57 years old. He lived another 18 years until he died. And during his reign he thought so much of himself that he had people worship him as a living god! But, as I said, that living god died. And on his death bed he is said to have uttered these final words: “Have I not played the part well?” Ah, that’s human history summed up, isn’t it? Prideful human attempts to play at life. But, when they die, none of it matters. Today no one thinks about Augustus. No one worships him. Few in this world know his name. And Quirinus? If it wasn’t for St. Luke, almost no one would know his name either.


These two money-grubbing men initiated a chain of events which has shaken, continues to shake, and will forever shake the world! To tax you need to have a count of the people you’re taxing—hence the census. And in those times, it was carried out in your ancestral city. “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee (where he was living) to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Humanly speaking, Joseph was a nobody. He lived in an obscure village in an obscure province. He had a common job—a carpenter, a craftsman, a worker with wood. The fact that he and Mary had to reside in a stable tells me that either the relatives were full up with others, or he had no close relatives in that little town. In any event, historically speaking, humanly speaking, he was a forgotten man.—Except for what happens next.


“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

What do you think Quirinus was doing that night? I’ll bet he was drinking, eating too much food, and having people fawn all over him. What do you think Augustus was doing that night? Well, you can quadruple the excesses of Quirinus and you’d probably be pretty close to the truth. Both were well-fed, secure, fat and happy. Both were warm. And yet, today, both are largely forgotten.

Mary and Joseph would be forgotten, too, if it hadn’t been for that baby. For as Luke goes on to tell us, as the angels go on to tell us, as the shepherds went on to tell others—that baby was the Eternal Son of God! He is Christ the Lord! He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Savior of all mankind! He is your Brother! He is God in human flesh!

Tonight as you heard the familiar words of St. Luke being read, what were you thinking about? I’ll bet it wasn’t Quirinus or Augustus. No, instead you were thinking about Jesus. You were thinking about that obscure Baby Who is anything but obscure. Indeed, His name is common worldwide. Everyone has heard of Jesus. He even has a special day and a special night named after Him! And unlike Augustus who liked to think he was a god, tonight people around the world praise the name of Jesus Christ! The angels in heaven sing out His name, just as they did in the Bethlehem skies. And knees and hearts bend only to Him!


This little section from Luke that we’ve studied tonight if often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. For it is a striking contrast between human power and human wisdom vs. GOD’S CHRISTMAS POWER AND WISDOM. We humans think life is all about celebrity status, money, and forcing our will upon others to feed our egos. But God’s meaning to life is about: love, humility, and forgiveness. Jesus was born to bring all three of those gifts to us. He loved us enough, in spite of our sins, to come to save us. He was humble because we are not. And He forgives us freely with His blood even though we can never deserve it. Yes, my friends, that is what Christmas is all about. And by remembering that fact and taking it to heart, you will be blest and never forgotten in the annals of heaven. This is the Baby Jesus’ Christmas Present to You! Amen