December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“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 guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them . . . 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.’”—Luke 2:6–9, 15 (NIV)
“‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’ . . . When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”—Matthew 2:2, 10–11 (NIV)
The most important family road trip ever taken. Picture it . . . Mary, very pregnant at this point, and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, the place where their ancestors came from. Because of the census, they had to travel and stay there for an undetermined period of time, as did anyone else who was descended from their family lineage. So, with this massive influx of people coming to stay in this small town, they had to hope one of their relatives had enough room for them to stay.
But, by the time Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, none of their relatives had room for them. Their only option was to stay in the lower room of a relative’s house where the animals were kept at night. Imagine something like a basement or garage where you keep your dog or cat . . . or your cows and donkeys!
Isn’t that insane? But it gets even crazier . . . Do you know where Jesus, the King of the universe and almighty Creator, slept as an infant? Not in a fancy crib or nice bed; He was placed in a manger, a feeding trough out of which livestock would eat. Now, often this manger is depicted in a traditional nativity scene as a wooden bassinet, but the reality is that it was more like a big rectangular stone farm sink sitting on a pair of cinder blocks!
There was no room for Jesus on Earth that night, and yet, with the invitation to the shepherds in the nearby field and the later arrival of the wise men from the East, the Lord showed us that everyone is invited to come and worship at the feet of Jesus. How so? Out of everyone who possibly could have been invited from the whole of Jewish society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth and to come worship Him. That’s such a powerful picture for us because shepherds were among the lowest social groups.
Consider how the shepherds’ work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Jewish society, from ceremonial cleansing, and often even from observing all the religious festivals and feasts. And yet, these shepherds, who were undoubtedly caring for sheep that would one day be used as sacrifices in the temple, were invited. As John MacArthur so aptly said, “How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!”
Even more profound for us today would be the arrival of the wise men, a group of Babylonian/Persian priests and astrologers, who boldly went on the very first star trek in search of a King. But here’s the thing: These wise men were Gentiles, non-Jews. They trusted in God’s Word so much that they left their land in search of the promised Messiah. They sought Him in faith and with all their hearts and rejoiced with exceeding great joy as they found their way to Him. When they found Him in all His humble splendor, they offered Him extremely valuable gifts fit for a King. This shows us that all are welcome to come and worship at the feet of Jesus and be saved!
Jesus’ birth and life, His ministry, the disciples He chose, the places He went, the work He accomplished . . . it’s for all people, regardless of their background, beliefs, or lifestyle. And as Jesus did, we should have the same love, compassion, and kindness toward everyone around us.
As the song “O Holy Night” declares, in every way, “Truly He taught us to love another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.” May we be a stepping stone for people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9 NIV) to come and worship our Lord!
Pause: What does the presence of both the shepherds and the wise men teach us about the gospel?
Practice: Pray for people around the world who may feel alienated or ostracized from the Lord for whatever reason, that they may hear the truth and know that Jesus welcomes them to receive salvation. Pray He will bring people into their lives who will show them the love of Christ and help break down any walls that have been built up that have kept them from faith in Jesus.
Pray: Father, thank You that all are welcome and that all who call upon the name of Jesus are saved. Thank You that You desire that none should perish but that all would have everlasting life. And thank You that in Christ, we are all one! Help me to identify the people in my life who may feel as though the gospel is out of reach for them. And use me to show them that Jesus loves them and receives all who come to Him! Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.