• Tony Birkhead

UNBOXED Week - 4



When love comes to town it changes everything!



INTRODUCTION

What are some of the most meaningful Christmas traditions for your family?


Which songs do you think best reflect the true meaning of Christmas?


How would you describe the world into which Jesus came?


The Christmas story never grows old. Indeed it should be fresh to us every year. Of course, it’s not just a holiday for the Christian—it’s a holy day. Many people find themselves to be busy during this time of year but leave out the most important person. Without Christ, though, there is no Christmas. Sadly, it’s easy even for the Christian to be so busy that we crowd Christ out of our Christmas celebrations—and the rest of the year too.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Luke 2:1-20

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 nearby, 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 Savior 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 favor 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.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Read Luke 2:1-7.


Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth is both simple and magnificent. Luke’s record frames Jesus’ birth in historical terms while dramatically demonstrating how God chose to invade human history. God worked through the ordinary plans of government officials to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth and then used common people to spread the extraordinary message of His birth.


As with his other writings, Luke gives the historical setting of the birth of Jesus. What implications does this setting suggest about the world into which Jesus came?


What does the local setting of Jesus’ birth tell us about the way He entered our world?


When did you first sense that Jesus wanted to enter and reign “your world”?


Verse 7 says there was “no room for them at the lodging place.” While this is certainly a historical event, how does it also serve as a metaphor for what happens with people’s rejection of Jesus today?


Jesus humbled Himself in ways beyond our understanding. This is how much He loved us—that He stepped out of heaven into a manger for us. And that was just the beginning.


Read Luke 2:8-15.

In the countryside near Bethlehem, shepherds were working in the fields. Shepherds were considered ceremonially unclean because of the duties their occupation required of them. Also, their work schedule often prevented them from being cleansed at the temple. As a result, these men were considered very low in the social order. Yet, they would be the first to hear of the Savior’s birth—and be the first ones to share it.


Why do you think the first announcement of Jesus’ birth was given to lowly shepherds? What does that say about Jesus? What does that say about the nature of diversity inherent within the gospel?


What might the shepherds have found most incredible about the angels’ message? How do you think they must have felt in hearing it?


We like to sing about shepherds and to see them on Christmas cards, but in what tangible ways are the shepherds good examples for us to follow today?


How do these verses encourage you to place Jesus first in your life?


From no room in the inn, to a lowly manger, and then to a place in these shepherds’ hearts, we see the importance of making room for Jesus. Once we have received Christ, like the shepherds, we have the responsibility and privilege of helping others know Jesus’ name!


MOVING FORWARD

  • How did you receive the message that Jesus came to save you when you first heard it? Who did you first tell once you placed your faith in Jesus?

  • In what ways can you renew your enthusiasm for the message of Jesus’ birth so that it makes a difference throughout the year?

PRAY TOGETHER

Spend some time thanking God for the wonderful gift of Jesus and for the joyous fact that He led you to make room for Him in your heart. Pray that others may come to know the same peace and joy that you have experienced. Ask God for the courage and clarity to make Jesus known enthusiastically and humbly, just as the shepherds did.

COMMENTARY

Luke 2:1-15

2:1 Augustus (meaning “Exalted,” a title approved by the Roman Senate in 27 b.c.) was the Roman Caesar from 31 b.c. to a.d. 14. This decree... that the whole empire should be registered was a census for the purposes of taxation and military service.

2:2 It is thought that Quirinius served two terms as Roman governor of Syria: from 6-4 b.c., and then a.d. 6-9. Jesus was born during the period of the first registration. There was also a census registration in Quirinius’s second term (Ac 5:37).

2:3-4 His own town refers not to where Joseph presently lived (Nazareth in Galilee), but to the town of his ancestral roots (Bethlehem in Judea), which was called the city of David because King David grew up there (1Sam 16:1). Joseph was descended from David (1:27). The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have taken three days and covered roughly 90 miles.

2:5-6 As months before in 1:27, Mary at this time was still only engaged to Joseph because they had not yet consummated their marriage via intercourse. Nevertheless, she was pregnant and ready to give birth.

2:7 The words her firstborn Son naturally implies that Mary later had other children (Mt 13:55-56). In that day, a newborn was wrapped... snuggly in cloth to keep its arms and legs straight. That baby Jesus was laid... in a feeding trough indicates that the family was forced to stay in a stable, or perhaps a cave that served as a stable, because there was no other room available in Bethlehem.

2:8 The sheep used for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem were kept in fields outside Bethlehem. The work of shepherds was more important at night because of the threats from thieves and predators.

2:9-10 Though not named in the present passage, the angel of the Lord was Gabriel (1:11-20). The glory of the Lord was a bright light (in the midst of the darkness of night), indicating God’s glorious presence. It is only natural to be terrified at the sight of an angel, not to mention a sudden, overwhelming light from the sky. The angel spoke to calm the shepherds and refocus their attention on the proclamation of the gospel (good news). All the people could refer to Israel, but given Luke’s emphasis on the gospel spreading to the Gentiles, it probably means “all nations.”

2:11-12 Savior (Gk soter) means “deliverer, redeemer.” Messiah (Gk christos, equivalent to the Hb meshiach) means “anointed one,” especially focusing on being anointed as king. Lord (Gk kurios) was used of secular rulers, but it is also the standard translation of the primary name of God in Hebrew, Yahweh. The shepherds would have been shocked to hear that a divine messianic ruler had been born, but to be told He was lying in a feeding trough and born to a man and woman of humble means would have seemed preposterous.

2:13-14 The hymn sung by the choir of angels (heavenly host) is well-known today as the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” from the first words of verse 14 in the Latin Vulgate (glory to God in the highest). To give “glory to God” does not give Him something He otherwise lacks. Rather, it is a confession of the wondrous glory He forever possesses. The peace to be found on earth was not the Pax Romana (the “universal peace” of the Roman Empire), but peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rm 5:1). The people whom God favors are those who have found God’s undeserved favor, or grace, through Christ.

2:15 What has happened refers to the birth of the Savior, who is Christ and Lord.


DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Christmas is a wonderful season. As Christians, we understand (or at least by now we should understand) that on December 25th we commemorate the truth that God became a man in the form of Jesus Christ. This child’s arrival in a small, inconsequential stable made a ripple, or more accurately, an explosive shockwave through all history! We celebrate then, the advent of Jesus as the Messiah come to earth and wrapped in flesh.

But as we wrap our gifts this year, as we frantically search for a last minute present, as we attend our work Christmas parties, as we gather around our glowing trees wound in garland and dangling with ornaments, let us celebrate Jesus’ incarnation with generosity. We’ve heard it time and again, but it is true that God has sent us the most valuable and costly gift, in Jesus.

Now, rather than simply relaying what we know to be the “real meaning of Christmas” to our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and the rest through our words, let us couple that with our deeds of generosity. How can we mirror the generosity of our Father this year? He “gave his only Son” for us, what can we give to others in small, that we may draw attention to the Father’s generosity in large?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35

Love is powerful. So powerful that Jesus rolled up the entire Ten Commandments around the principle of love. When the religious teachers of His day pressed Jesus on which commandment was most important, He responded: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these (Mark 12:29-31 NLT).”

But Christ goes on to say, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34 NLT).” However, He doesn’t stop there. In Luke 6:27, Jesus takes this command a step further by saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

We’re to not only love those who are easy to love—like our friends and family—but Jesus also commands us to love the unlovable. This selfless love He’s describing can only be expressed with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit. When we put aside our emotions and trust the healing power of the Holy Spirit to work through us for the benefit of those on the receiving end, we become a witness of God’s transformational love.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 3

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a 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.

Luke 2:16-20

When I was 18, I spent countless hours making a ceramic nativity set. The project took over a year because of the labor-intensive steps involved. Much love went into it knowing it was for the family God would eventually bless me with. I trusted that God would bring the right man and children into my life. I was making the nativity set in preparation for that future family. On the first Christmas I was married, I was amazed when I beheld the ornate nativity set I had created. My husband built a manger, and it was arranged beside our tree. We felt blessed to have this exceptional set, and again, I had enormous faith in God for the children He would provide. When children didn’t come to us after eight years, I remained faithful and ultimately God blessed us with two beautiful girls.

At Christmas time our daughters “played” with the nativity set and were particularly fond of the sheep. Every day they were paraded around the crèche, and it wasn’t long before there were nicks and scratches, and a few chipped ears and tails. One camel even sustained a broken neck! Our children were putting their own personal touches on the nativity set.

Each year we added something different to it. We covered the ground with straw, added moss to the roof, and silver stars overhead. We illuminated the inside, provided burlap bags of feed, bales of hay, and a trough filled with tiny bits of grain. This isn’t how I imagined it would look when I made it, but it’s more complete with everyone’s distinctive touch. Our nativity set is a lot like us, a work in progress that gets transformed over the years.

It’s astounding that I made it in my teens with such steadfast faith that God would bring me the perfect husband. When children didn’t automatically come, God allowed me to believe that He would provide. And he did! I’m reminded of it whenever I look at the nativity set.

Life isn’t always easy. There are times when I feel the scratches and nicks of life that could easily distract and disorient me. Like the sheep, they add to my character and make me unique and spectacular. When I look at our nativity set, I see much more than a stable filled with ceramic figurines; I see the miracle of life that has grown in God’s unadulterated love.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 4

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:6-8

Every year as my family decorates our Christmas tree, my face reflects back to me from an ornament hanging on the tree. As I look at my reflection, I remember the Christmas that my grandfather died. As kids, we tried to be happy by making funny faces appear on the round colorful balls hanging from the tree at Grandmother’s house. That was over thirty-five years ago, yet the powerful emotions of Christmas make memories linger on.

Christmas must bring bittersweet memories for God the Father. I cannot imagine a pain greater than losing a child. I do know the great joy and blessing of seeing my own children born. I cannot imagine God sending His Son, knowing that He would be killed. Don’t skim over the above verses. Jesus was equal in every way with God. Grasp the significance. Jesus gave up His place with God. He was there before the beginning of time, receiving the praises of the angels. He gave up his position, to become like you and me. Would you and I have done that?

The Christ child’s birth was a divine demotion. It is hard for us to understand as we scratch, claw and climb ladders for promotions in the world. Christ was counterintuitive in every way. Why? He became like us, to share all our emotions and experiences. He became like us to be able to be a very personal God — a God that fully understands us spiritually, emotionally and physically. He became like us, to die for all of us.

If painful memories and sad emotions grip your heart this Christmas season, I pray you will remember the divine demotion that Christ took for us. Whatever emotion you are feeling, He has felt. Whatever troubles you, He has been there. Friends and family members sometimes abandon us, but He never does. Those of us who are Christ-followers know that we truly have a friend in the Christ child (John 15:15).

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 5

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:9-10

All around us are reminders that Christmas is here. Frankly, it seems to get earlier every year. I think I maybe even saw Christmas decorations for sale in August.

Even so, I love to hear those great Christian Christmas songs being played wherever I go. Suddenly I’m hearing the name of Jesus in public, and there’s something very special about that.

This month we talk a lot about the where and the what surrounding Jesus’ birth. But I want to focus for a moment on the why. Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem to save us from our sins.

In fact, Jesus revealed to a man named Zacchaeus the reason He came to this earth. When Jesus showed up in Jericho, it was a big deal. Zacchaeus couldn’t see above the crowd, but no one wanted anything to do with him because he was a tax collector. That means he took advantage of people. He effectively ripped them off. Therefore, he didn’t have a friend in town.

So Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a view of Jesus. Imagine his shock when Jesus stopped, looked up, and called him by name. Jesus said, “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today” (Luke 19:5 NLT).

After all, how can you reach a sinner if you don’t spend some time with him? That day Zacchaeus walked into his home a sinner, and he walked out a saint. And that is what spending time with Jesus will do.

There in the home of Zacchaeus, Jesus revealed the reason He came. He said, “Salvation has come to this home today. . . . For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (verses 9–10 NLT).

That’s why Jesus came—to seek and save lost people.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…


Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

James 1:16-18

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