Sermon 2915. A Visit to Bethlehem

(No. 2915)




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

[The accompanying Sermon is substantially the same as I preached on the Sunday evening before Christmas day. Some of my membersexpressed their regret that the reporter was not present. I am not myself aware that there is any novelty except in the arrangement.As for the Truths of God, themselves, they are the simple old facts in which the saints of all generations rejoice. Of courseit is not in my power to reproduce the exact words I then employed, but, with just the differences between the effusion ofone's pen and the utterance of one's tongue, I now publish it and pray God to acknowledge it with His gracious blessing.-C.H. S.]

(Notwithstanding the above note, which is in Mr. Spurgeon's handwriting on the manuscript of the sermon, the publishers cannotfind any trace of its publication. They are very glad to be able to issue it just 50 years after it was preached).

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 slope of a hill, lies a small, irregular village, never at any time considerableeither in its extent or because of the wealth of its inhabitants. The only building worthy of notice is a convent. Shouldyour 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 withwhich a Christian would regard the place. You might walk upon the marble floor of a chapel and gaze on walls bedecked withpictures and studded with the fantastic dolls and other nicknacks which are usually found in Roman Catholic places of worship.Within a small grotto you might observe the exact spot that superstition has assigned to the nativity of our Lord. There astar, composed of silver and precious stones, surrounded by golden lamps, might remind you, but merely as a parody, of thesimple story of the Evangelists. Truly, Bethlehem was always little, if not the least, among the thousands of Judah-and onlyfamous for its historic associations.

So, Beloved, "let us now go to 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 withvivid colors, that you may apprehend afresh the great Truth of God and be impressed, as you ought to be, with the facts concerningthe birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I propose now to make A VISIT TO BETHLEHEM and I need five companions to render the visit instructive. So I would have, first,an aged Jew. Next, an ancient Gentile. Then, a convicted sinner Next, 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, letthem all look at the Divine Infant and hear what each one has to say about Him.


Come on, my venerable, long-bearded Brother-you are an Israelite, indeed, for your name is Simeon. Do you see the Baby "wrappedin 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 let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word: for my eyes have seenYour salvation." "Here," says this faithful son of Abraham, "is the fulfillment of a thousand prophecies and promises! Thehope, the expectation and the joy of my noble ancestry! Here is the Antitype of all those mystic symbols and typical offeringsenjoined in the Laws of Moses. You, O Son of the Highest, are Abraham's promised Seed, the Shiloh whose coming Jacob foretold,great David's greater Son and Israel's rightful King! Our Prophets did herald your coming in each prophetic page. Our bardsvied with one another who should chant Your praise in sweetest stanzas! And now, O happy hour-these poor dim eyes do greetYour beauteous form! It is enough-and more than enough-O God! I ask not that I may live any longer on earth!" So speaks theaged Jew and, as he speaks, I mark the rapturous smile that lights up every feature of his face and listen to the deep, mellowtones of his tremulous voice. As he gazes on the tender Baby, I hear him quote Isaiah's words, "He shall grow up before Himas a tender plant" and then, as he glances aside at the virgin-mother, descendant of the royal house of David, he quicklylooks back to the sinless Baby and says, "A root out of a dry ground." Farewell, venerable Jew, your talk sounds sweet inmy ears-may the day soon dawn when all your brethren shall return to their fatherland and there confess our Jesus as theirMessiah 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, hehas glimmering, flickering Light of God enough to detect the moral darkness by which he is surrounded, albeit the Truth ofthe Gospel has not yet found an entrance into his heart. Call him a skeptic, from the heathen point of view, if you please,but his is not a willful perversion of the heart, it is rather that transition state of the mind wherein false hopes are rejected,but the true hope has not yet been espoused. This Gentile is staying at Jerusalem and we walk and talk together as we bendour steps toward Bethlehem. He has told me what pleasure he feels in reading the Jewish Scriptures and how he has often longedfor the dawn of that day which their seers predict. Now we enter the house-a star shines brightly in the sky and hovers overthe stable-we look at the Child and my comrade exclaims in ecstasy, "a Light to lighten the Gentiles!" "Fair Child of promise,"he says, "Your birth shall be a joy to all people! Prince of Peace, Yours shall be a peaceful reign! Kings shall bring presentsto You; all nations shall serve You. The poor shall rejoice in Your advent, for justice shall be done to them by You. Andoppressors shall tremble at Your coming, for judgment upon them shall be pronounced by Your lips."

Then sweetly did he speak of the hopes which had bloomed in that birth-chamber. He looked as if, in that same hour, he sawthe application of many an ancient promise with the letter of which he was already acquainted, to the wonderful Child he theresaw. It was refreshing to hear that entire quote from the evangelical Prophet, words like these, "The wolf also shall dwellwith the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and alittle 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, hidHis face from the house of Jacob, He lifted up the Light of His Countenance on the Gentiles. When the fruitful land becamea desert, the wilderness, at the same time, began to blossom as the garden of the Lord. Moses had anticipated both of theseevents and the Inspired Prophets had foreseen one as much as the other. The heart of the Jewish people made gross, the heavinessof their eyes and the dullness of their ears are not more striking as an exact fulfillment of Divine Judgment, than the extremesusceptibility of the Gentile mind to receive the evidence of our Lord's Messiahship and to embrace His Gospel! Thus had Jehovahsaid, fifteen hundred years before, "I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people. I will provoke them toanger with a foolish nation." Marvel not, then, but admire the crisis in history when Paul and Barnabas were commissionedto 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 missionaryjourney. Antioch, the city from which they went forth, is situated directly North of Jerusalem-and there, in not very unequalproportions, they could find both Jews and Gentiles. "To the Jew first," was according to the Divine Injunction and, on theirown nation rejecting the Grace of God, lo, they turned to the Gentiles with a result immediately following that greatly cheeredthem, for the Gentiles heard with gladness and glorified the Word of the Lord! As you follow the various journeys of the ApostlePaul, 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 point inour highly-favored island!

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 ownthoughts 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 tothe rough crib where the young Child lies. She looks as if she feared to rejoice and is beyond measure astonished at herselfthat she does not faint. She says to me, "And is this, Sir, really and truly the great Mystery of godliness? Do I, in thatmanger, behold 'God manifest in the flesh'? I expected to see something very different." Looking into her face, I clearlyperceived that she could scarcely believe for joy. A humble, but not uninteresting visitor to the birthplace of my Lord isthis trembling penitent. I wish I could have many like her out of this congregation tonight. You would see how Mystery isdissolved in mercy! No flaming sword turning every way obstructs your entrance. No ticket of admission is demanded by a surlymenial 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 thehumblest cot wherein infants 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 swaddlingclothes and cradled in a manger. It needs faith to believe what the eyes of sense never could discern as you look upon "thePrince 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 toBethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us." I mark the sacred cheerfulnessof my young friend's countenance as he approaches the Incarnate Mystery! Often have I heard him discussing curious doctrinalsubtleties, but now, with calmness of spirit, he looks on the face of the Divine Child and says, "Truth is sprung out of theearth, for a woman has brought forth her Son and righteousness has looked down from Heaven, for God has, of a truth, revealedHimself in that Baby." He looks so wistfully at the young Child, as if a fresh spring of holy gratitude had been opened inhis heart. "No vision, no imagination, no myth here," he says, "but a real partaker of our flesh and blood! He has not takenon Him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. Heaven and earth have united to make us blessed. Might and weaknesshave joined hands here!"

He pauses to worship, then speaks again, "In what a small, weak, slender Tabernacle do You, 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, You are Mercyitself-the tender mercy of our God is embodied in You. You are the Truth-the very Truth which the Prophets longed to see andinto which the angels desire to look-the Truth my soul so long sought for, but never found till I beheld Your face. Once Ithought that the Truth was hidden in some profound treatise, or in some learned book, but now I know that it is revealed inYou, O Jesus, my Kinsman, yet Your Father's equal! And, sweet Baby, You are also Righteousness-the only righteousness thatGod can accept. What condescension, yet what patience! Ah, dear Child, how still You lie! I wonder that, conscious of yourDivine Power, you can thus endure the weary, lingering hours of Infancy with humility so strange, so rare! I think if Youhad stood by me and watched over me in my infant weakness, that would have been a service that I could well admire, but 'tispast imagination's utmost stretch to realize what it must be for You to be thus feeble, thus helpless, thus needing to befed and waited upon by an earthly mother! For The Wonderful, The Mighty God to stoop thus, is humility profound!"

So spoke the young Believer and I liked his speech very much, for I saw in him how faith could work by love and how the endof controversy and argument is reached at Bethlehem, for "without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifestin the flesh."

V. Now I will go to Bethlehem with AN ADVANCED CHRISTIAN, such an one as Paul the Aged, or John the Divine-no, rather withsuch an one as I might find among the circle of my own Church members!

Calm, peaceful, kind and gracious, he seems as if his training in the school of Christ and the sacred anointing of the HolySpirit have made him like a child, himself-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 EternalDays." He spoke not much and what he said was not exactly like what any of my other companions had spoken. It was his mannerto quote short sentences, with great exactness, from the Word of God. He uttered them slowly, pondered them deeply and therewas much spiritual unction in the accent with which he spoke. I will just mention a few of the profitable sentences that heuttered. First he said, "No man has ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which isin Heaven."He really appeared to see more in that passage than I had ever seen there. Jesus, the Son of Man, in Heaven evenwhile He was on earth! Then he looked at the Child and said, "The same was in the beginning with God." After that, he utteredthese three short sentences in succession, "In the beginning was the Word-"all things were made by Him"-"and the Word wasmade flesh." He looked as if he realized what a great mystery it was that our Lord Jesus first made all things and afterwardswas Himself "made flesh." Then he reverently bent his knee, clasped his hands and exclaimed, "My Father's gift-'Behold, whatmanner 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 oftenbeen to Bethlehem. It was a much-loved haunt of mine before you were born. And there is one sweet lesson I have learned therewhich I should like to pass on to you. The Infinite became finite. The Almighty consented to become weak. He that upheld allthings by the word of His power, willingly became helpless. He that spoke all worlds into existence, resigned for a whileeven the power of speech! In all these things, He fulfilled the will of His Father, so be not you afraid, nor surprised withany amazement if you should be dealt with in like manner, for His Father is also your Father. You who have reveled in theancient settlements of the Everlasting Covenant, may yet have to hang feebly on the mercies of the hour. You have leaned onyour Savior's breast at His Table, but you may presently be so weak that you must rely on the nursing of a woman. Your tonguehas been touched as with a coal from the heavenly altar, but your lips may yet be sealed as are those of an infant. If youshould sink still deeper in humiliation, you will 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 tome more fully."

Thus, Beloved, I have endeavored to carry out my purpose of going to Bethlehem with five separate companions- all representativepersons. Alas that some of you are not represented by any one of these characters! "Is it nothing to you, all you that passby?" Care you not for this blessed Nativity which marked of old, "the fullness of time"? If you die without a knowledge ofthis 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 Christmas Eve and that a Christian father has all his householdgathered 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 preachthem a short sermon on each of their remarks. He calls Mary, their servant, into the room. And when all are comfortably seatedthey 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 littlefellow, who is just old enough to go to the Sunday school, repeats two lines that he has learned 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 theworld as other little babies are born. He was as little, as delicate, as weak as other infants and needed to be nursed asthey do-

"'Almighty God became a Man,

A Baby like others seen-

As small in size, and weak of frame,

As babies have always been.

From thence He grew an Infant mild,

By fair and due degrees

And then became a bigger Child,

And sat on Mary's knee.

'At first held up for need of strength,

In time alone He ran.

Then grew a Boy. A Lad-at length

A 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 oughtto 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, drink, sleep, wake, laugh, cry and hold onto His mother, just as other childrendo. 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 JesusChrist 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, norsuch a snug bed. Was He not disturbed by the horses, and cows, and camels? It seems to me shocking that He had to live ina 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 withthe poor. When those Wise Men came from the East, I daresay they were surprised, at first, to find that Jesus was a poor man'sChild. Yet they fell down and worshipped Him, they opened their treasury and presented to Him very costly gifts-gold, andfrankincense, and myrrh. Ah, when the Son of God made that great stoop from Heaven to earth, He passed the glittering palacesof kings and the marble halls of the rich and the noble-to take up His abode in the lodgings of poverty. Still, He was 'bornKing of the Jews.' Now, John, did you ever read of a child being born a kngbefore? Of course you never did-children have beenborn princes and heirs to a throne-but no other than Jesus was ever born a King. The poverty of our Savior's circumstancesis like a foil which sets off the glorious dignity of His Person. You have read of good kings, such as David, Hezekiah andJosiah, yet, if they had not been kings, we would 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 itwas 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 has nowhere to lay His head.' Do you know, my children, that our comfortswere 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 beginningto be of some assistance to her mother in the discharge of her daily domestic duties. Poor girl, she modestly hung down herhead, for she remembered, just then, how frequently little acts of carelessness had exposed her to tender but faithful rebukesfrom 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, commandedthe Jews to offer in sacrifice to God. They were all to be without spot or ble-mish-and if there had been one taint of impurityin the Child that was born of Mary, He could never have been our Savior. Sometimes we think naughty thoughts and nobody knowsit 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-Henever had even one fault! His delight was in the Law of the Lord and in that Law did He meditate day and night. Even whenwe do not commit any positive sin, we often forget to do our duty, but Jesus never did. He was like a tree planted by therivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season. He never disappointed any hopes that were set upon Him."

"There now," said the father, "we have already had three beautiful thoughts-Jesus Christ took our Nature, He condescendedto 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 fatherturned to this son and said, "Fred, we must hear your remark next." Very short, very significant was Master Fred's response-"thatChild 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 ofthought-'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 wasof quick understanding to discern between good and evil. His mind was never warped by prejudice. He saw things just as theyare. 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 of always instructing the ignorant and guidingtheir feet in the paths of peace. His heart was likewise pure and that has more to do with the development of the mind andthe improvement of the understanding than we are apt to suppose. No corrupt imagination ever tarnished the brightness of Hisvision. He was always in harmony with God and always felt good-will toward man. You might well say, Fred, that He had a wonderfulmind."

5. The children having each made some observation, the father next addressed Mary, the servant. "Do not be timid," he said,"but speak out and let us know your thoughts." "I was just a-thinking, Sir," said Mary, "how humble it was of Him to takeupon Himself the form of a Servant." "Right, Mary, quite right. And it is always profitable to consider how Jesus came downto our low estate. We may well be reconciled to any 'lot' which Jesus voluntarily chose for Himself. But there is more inyour remark, as applicable to Bethlehem and the Nativity, than you perhaps imagined, for, according to Dr. Kitto's accountof the inn, or Caravanserai, it was the servant's placethat the holy family occupied. Imagine now a square pile of strongand lofty walls, built of brick upon a basement of stone with one great archway entrance. These walls enclose a large openarea with a well in the middle. In the center is an inner quadrangle consisting of a raised platform on all four sides coveredwith 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 thestable. It is formed of a covered avenue between the back wall of the lodging apartments and the outer wall of the whole building-thusit is on a level with the court and three or four feet below the raised platform. The side walls of those cells, in the innerquadrangle, projecting behind into the courtyard, form recesses, or stalls, which servants and muleteers used for shelterin bad weather. Joseph and Mary seem to have found a retreat in one of these. There, it is supposed, the Infant Jesus wasborn. And if it is 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 inour conversations this evening. Let us now hear your reflection. I am sure you can say something we shall all be pleased tohear." The mother looked absorbed in thought. She appeared to have a vivid picture of the whole scene before her and her eyeskindled 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 thatof 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 tobe sanctified by Divine Grace in her heart and to give forth its richest fragrance. The father presently broke the stillnessas he said, "Ah, my Love, you have spoken best of all! His heart was broken with reproach! That humble birth was but the preludeto a life still more humble and a death even more abased! Your feelings, my Love, are most precious evidence of your closerelationship 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 expecta 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 theirchildren. I can look at you boys and think, 'Never mind if you have a few hardships so long as you can struggle successfullyagainst 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 scepterof universal empire! Those little arms will one day grapple with the monster, 'Death,' and destroy it! Those little feet shalltread on the serpent's neck and crush that old deceiver's head! Yes, and that little tongue which has not yet learned to articulatea word shall, before long, pour from His sweet lips such streams of eloquence as shall fertilize the minds of the whole humanrace and infuse His teaching into the literature of the world! And again, a little while, and that tongue shall pronouncethe 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 wonderfulthat the Man of Sorrows should be exalted so high! Earth could find no place too base for Him-Heaven will scarcely find aplace lofty enough for Him! If there is just this one thing to be said about Jesus Christ, He is 'the same yesterday, andtoday, and forever.' We may change with circumstances-Jesus never did and never will! When we look at Him in the manger, wemay say, 'He is The Wonderful, The Counselor, The Mighty God.' And when we see Him exalted to His Father's right hand, wemay exclaim, 'Behold the Man!'-

"'His human heart He still retains

Though enthroned 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 saidit was time to retire. And he bade them all, 'good night.'" And as the father said, so say I, "Good night and God bless youall!" Amen.


[Remember, the Exposition was before the sermon.]

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 shouldbe taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria). And all went to be taxed, every one into hisown city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the City of David, which iscalled Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great withchild. Little did any idea enter into Caesar's head that he was accomplishing the purpose of God by bringing Mary to Bethlehemat that particular time so that her Child might be born there! But God can accomplish the purpose of His Providence and ofHis Grace in any way that He pleases! And although Caesar is not aware of all that is involved in his action, his decree whichhe intends to simply be a means of registering his subjects and of filling his coffers, is to be overruled by God for thefulfillment of the prophecy uttered centuries before the event happened-that Christ must be born at Bethlehem! It may seemto some of you a strange thing that there should be an imperial edict issued from Rome which should have an important influenceupon 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 ofvery small account in comparison with His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And today the thrones and dominions of themightiest monarchs are only like the small cogs of the wheels of Divine Providence where the welfare of even the least ofthe Lord's people is concerned. He reckons not events according to their apparent importance-the standard of the sanctuaryis a very different measure from that which worldlings use. When any purpose of God is to be accomplished, all other thingswill 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 broughtforth her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for themin the inn. Now has heavenly Glory wedded earthly poverty and, henceforth, let no man dare to despise the poor and needy sincethe Son of the Highest is born in a stable and cradled in a manger! How low the King of Glory stoops, and how gloriously Helifts up the lowly to share His Glory!

8, 9. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, 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 sorely

afraid. For such is the condition, even of gracious souls, that the near approach of the Divine Glory begets in them tremblingand alarm! Oh, how wondrously changed shall we be when we are able to bear even the glories of Heaven! Have you ever thoughtof 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 sorely afraid." You and I, Beloved, mustundergo a marvelous change before we shall be able to be at Home with God in His Glory-but that change shall, through Hisabundant Grace, take place before 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 allpeople.For unto you is born this day in the city ofDavid, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Youshall find the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. ' 'This shall be a sign unto you," said the angel tothe shepherds-and this is the ensign of the Christ of God even unto this day. There are some who are constantly bringing discreditupon religion by their pompous ritual and gorgeous ceremonies buried beneath the weight of their sensuous worship! But theliving 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 proclamationand hurried down to join him in publishing the glad tidings! They could not bear that only one angel should announce the birthof 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 to Bethlehem, and seethis thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph,and the Baby lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerningthis Child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all thesethings, and pondered them in her heart Mary laid these things up in store and pondered them, giving them their due weightand value. Oh, that we did the same with every Truth of God that we learn!

-Adapted from The C. H. Spurgeon Collection, Version 1.0, Ages Software, 1.800.297.4307