When Jesus Christ was born into this world over 2,000 years ago, people responded in different ways. Some were too busy, others didn’t believe, and others, perhaps, didn’t care. As Joseph took Mary on a donkey into Bethlehem they found no warm welcome. There were no receiving lines—not even a hospital nurse to welcome them!
As I read Luke’s narrative concerning the birth of King Jesus, I find that many of the reasons people were so disinterested in His arrival then are common today:
There Were Many Distractions
Luke 2:1–3 explains that there was a huge census taking place. Many people were coming and going. Imagine the commotion in the sleepy hamlet of Bethlehem due to these visitors and the beasts and belongings they may have brought with them. The people were simply caught up in the worry and drudgery of being away from home just to pay taxes. (We are truly blessed to be able to file our returns by completing a form and writing a check!)
There Was Disinterest in the Birth of This Infant King
No one seemed to care that Mary was ready to give birth at any moment. It is interesting that Luke does not mention more about the compassion of the innkeeper. Sure, it would have been wonderful if he had thought kindly enough toward Mary to give her a nice room or a warm bed in which to bring her Babe into the world, but the innkeeper did not completely turn her away. I see in this a picture of many in the world today. While they do not completely shun our Saviour, neither do they fully embrace Him. Instead, they relegate Him to the stable-areas of their lives. Substituting “religion” for a personal Saviour, they make the birth of Jesus, for them, irrelevant.
Luke tells us about some shepherds that were working in the fields near Bethlehem that night. Caring for the flocks, they were certainly distracted and disinterested in the birth of a baby, but something grabbed their collective attention. These shepherds were privileged to witness the doxology of the angelic host. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). The Babe’s Father had sent messengers to announce to these shepherds that their Saviour had come. Christians, this is now our purpose and work. No longer is the heavenly host privileged to shake the world from its distraction and disinterest—it is our responsibility!
Today people react to the message that God has come in the flesh as Saviour in much the same way that the shepherds did. We read first of their angst; they “were sore afraid” at the appearance of the messengers. When we confront people with the fact of sin and the reality of eternal punishment, they too experience angst, but as we continue to share the story of hope and reconciliation, angst turns to awe.
A few, though not nearly as many as we desire, hear for the first time the hope of salvation, and their thoughts join with the Psalmist: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4). In the birth of a baby 2,000 years ago, they found the Creator of the universe caring for their soul. His name surely is Wonderful!
These shepherds, having had their disinterest turned to awe, sought assurance that the things the angels said were true. People today need the same assurance from us as we witness to them of the same truth. The shepherds went to the manger. As they received news of His birth, they did not stay where they were. Furthermore, they came with haste. Finding the word of the messenger true, they took from the manger the message of salvation. They reacted with faith: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).
We are the shepherds of our time. If you are a child of God, He wants you to share the announcement of salvation with this entire lost and dying world. If, perchance, you have never received Christ as your personal Saviour, He is patiently waiting for you to receive the announcement of salvation today.
Let us rejoice over the greatest birth to ever occur on the earth!