1 January 2013

Luke 2:15-21

"They went with haste and found … the child lying in the manger." (v. 16)


Today's passage relates the story of what the shepherds in the region of Bethlehem did on Christmas night. They had just experienced a heavenly visitation of angels, who had told them that a Saviour had been born in Bethlehem who was the long-promised Messiah (the anointed one) who would establish God's kingdom on earth (Luke 2:10-14).

You can imagine their excitement. Such experiences were no more common then than they are today. They immediately rushed to the place where the baby was lying, making that a priority over guarding the sheep against wild animals or thieves. They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger (a feeding trough for animals, which was being used because there was no other accommodation available for the family than the place where the animals were kept). They amazed those who heard their story, and then returned to their sheep full of gratitude for what they had heard and seen.

The last verse tells us what happened eight days later. Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin, was a rite performed on all male Jewish babies at that time. It was a sign of membership of the covenant God had made with Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish race, that God would be the God of Abraham and his descendants, and that they would be God's own people.

At the same time Jesus was named (as happens at an infant Baptism, or christening, today). The name "Jesus" means 'the Lord saves'. It marked Jesus out as one who would save his people, not in the sense of giving them political independence, as the shepherds probably thought, but rather in the sense of giving them freedom from the guilt and power of their sins, and freedom to enjoy a new life in a new relationship with God.  

To Ponder

  • How eager are you to find Jesus today? To tell others what you know about him? To praise God for all that you have experienced of him?
  • In what ways do you still need to experience the freedoms Jesus brought?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Ensor

Peter Ensor is a Methodist minister who teaches New Testament, biblical languages, and Early Church history at Cliff College, Derbyshire. He has also worked as a theological educator in Kenya, Cameroon and Ethiopia, and has served in three english circuits, latterly as superintendent of the Hazel Grove and Poynton Circuit in the Manchester District.