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3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem ; (because he was of the house and lineage of David :)
5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Thus bya concurrence of unexpected circumstances the prophecy was accomplished, that Jesus should be born at Bethlehem. The emperor of Rome issues an edict that a census should be taken of all the world that was tributary to him. This edict obliges Joseph, at a season when he would not otherwise have entered upon a journey, to come from the place where he was living, to the place where it was necessary that his name should be enrolled.
It brings him from Nazareth to Bethlehem: and of Bethlehem it had been “ written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel.” 2 Thus“ known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2 Matt, ü. 6. Micah v. 9.
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not : for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
The expectation of the Messiah was so general amongst the Jews, that, even to these men of humble education, it was no strange thing to hear announced the birth of a Saviour. Moses, however, and Joshua, had been saviours, deliverers of the people: yet themselves were frail and sinful men. He, to whom the title was now given, is distinguished as Christ, the anointed one.
But kings and priests were anointed, on entering upon their high office: therefore he was more: he was Christ, the Lord: he was himself God, who “ was with God in the beginning.” The prophecy bad been uttered : “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given :" " and his name shall be called the Mighty God.” ? That prophecy had now been accomplished: and because he was the Lord, whatever he had undertaken, he was able to perform : and his birth was a subject of congratulation, was good tidings of great joy, both to those who first received the announcement, and to all people. “For God had sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved.”
Whatever men will think of this, “ whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear,” there are those, those who are best able to appreciate its importance, who were watching the whole plan of mercy with joyful interest.
2 Is. ix. 6.
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.
This short hymn declares, in few words, the effect of that great event which had come to pass, the incarnation of the Son of God. It brought, first, glory to God in the highest, because it eminently displays the attributes which belong to God. It displays his JUSTICE, which takes account of man's character, and discriminates between righteousness and unrighteousness, between obedience and disobedience. It displays his MERCY : for, though he “ will by no means clear the guilty,” he is still “ long-suffering and gracious;" he has provided a ransom, by which the penitent may be absolved ; and, as “ by one man's offence judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”3 It displays his WISDOM: for by showing, in one example, his hatred of sin, and his mercy towards the sinner, he brings his adopted children to obedience, by all the ties of fear, and gratitude, and love ; and purifies unto himself a peculiar people, redeemed from all iniquity.
Therefore do the angels sing, Glory to God in the highest ! Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
3 Rom. v. 21.
The next result of the incarnation is, Peace on earth. Peace between man and his Creator, between the sinner and his Judge; a state of sure and solid peace, such as may satisfy the most inquiring, and comfort the most fearful soul. True, man is corrupt and sinful, owing a large debt to God. But if a friend has discharged the debt, the debtor can face his creditor without alarm. Christ is that friend. He, by his one offering of himself once offered, has made a full, perfect, and sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. The benefit of this satisfaction, which is freely proposed to all, we take to ourselves by faith. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ.” By him the covenant of peace on earth was mercifully ratified. He is the “ Prince of Peace,” the appointed Mediator of reconciliation.
The last blessing revealed by the angels, as assured by the coming of Christ, is God's good-will towards men. For what was the object of Christ's coming ? That he might "suffer for our sins, the just for the unjust.” God has indeed displayed his good-will, by the nature of his message; calling men to repentance, and offering them pardon. He has displayed it by the bearer of this message; “even his beloved Son." He has displayed it, by the purpose of this message; the sanctification of our hearts, their restoration to his love, their conformity to his will, their preparation for a heavenly kingdom. This is indeed good-will towards men ; this raises man's condition in the world ; exalts the
meek and humble, how mean soever their degree, and sets them but little lower than the angels.
How, then, ought we to feel towards the possessor of this glory, the author of this peace, the instrument of this good will! How ought we to feel towards Him who so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that all that believe in him might not perish! How ought we to feel towards the Lord, who “ bought us,” and “washed us from our sins in his own blood !"
Surely our first and latest thought should be, to secure this inestimable blessing to ourselves, and to prove our gratitude towards Him who has called us to enjoy it. Yes; “worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
THE SHEPHERDS VISIT BETHLEHEM.-JESUS IS
PRESENTED IN THE TEMPLE.
LUKE ii. 15-24.
15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
4 Rev. v. 12, 13.