25 December 2015

Luke 2:1-20

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” (v. 10)

Psalm: Psalm 110 


Today's passage is so familiar from nativity plays and Christmas cards that it hardly needs comment. Notice, however, the repeated reference to David, the king of Israel in its heyday, and to Bethlehem, his birthplace (verses 4, 11, 15). Luke's Gospel emphasises that the birth of Jesus is the fulfilment of ancient hopes that God would bring into being a people faithful to God. Hence the frequent stress on good news and the joy it brings (verses 10, 13, 20).

Notice too the ordinariness of the setting: the city is crowded; the inn is full; the characters (except Mary and Joseph) are anonymous. There is some evidence too that shepherds were often regarded at the time as shifty and untrustworthy; if so it is all the more significant that they are the ones to receive the good news.

Strikingly, though, and sadly, there is no sign in the rest of Luke's Gospel (or in any of the others for that matter) that anyone (except Mary, verse 19) remembered what had happened.

The end of verse 14 is difficult to translate. 'Goodwill among men' is the familiar version, but is unlikely to be what Luke intended. Whatever the solution, the original Greek does not imply that God's favour is selective.

To Ponder

  • How do we preserve the true significance of Christmas in the midst of its commercial and secular exploitation?
  • What does it mean to proclaim Jesus as "Lord" (v. 11)?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..